By on February 9, 2010

It’s the software, stupid. At a press conference at 3:30 pm Japanese time, Toyota came clean and announced that it will recall 223,068 hybrid vehicles in Japan, including its latest Prius model and three other models–the Sai, the Lexus HS250h and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, says the Nikkei [sub]. They will get a re-flash of the brake software.  Worldwide recalls of affected models will follow. This ends – for now – weeks of waffling over the latest in a series of Toyota problems.

The recall will start Wednesday. A total of 199,666 Prius vehicles manufactured between April 20, 2009 and Jan. 27 of this year will receive new ABS software.

Toyota will also recall a total of 10,820 units of its Sai model manufactured between Oct. 2 and Feb. 8; 12,423 units of its Lexus HS250h manufactured between June 10 and Feb. 8; and 159 units of its Prius plug-in hybrid manufactured between Nov. 25 and Feb. 5.  Sales of these vehicles will be suspended from late February through early March, the Japanese Transport Ministry said according to a report in the Nikkei [sub]. The software for these models has not been finished yet.

According to a separate report in the Nikkei [sub], Toyota will recall 400,000 vehicles worldwide, President Akio Toyoda said at the press conference. “We will swiftly act to inform our customers in Europe and the U.S. of our plans.”

The Japanese government hopes Toyota will properly handle the recalls to ease concern among customers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Tuesday: ”I would like the company to deal with it properly so that it can alleviate concern among users.’The government will continue to watch developments carefully.”

Meanwhile in the U.S.A., Toyota went on the long overdue public relations offensive. The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed articled by Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda. He promised that Toyota will be more vigilant in the future about responding to safety regulators.

“I have spoken with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and given him my personal assurance that lines of communications with safety agencies and regulators will be kept open, that we will communicate more frequently and that we will be more vigilant in responding to those officials,” Toyoda wrote in the Washington Post. (Via Reuters, on-line version was not available at the time of this typing.)

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16 Comments on “Anticlimactic Post Of The Day: Toyota Recalls, Freezes Sales Of Prius, Sai, Lexus Hybrids...”

  • avatar

    The correct angle of the bow to signal remorse may not be important in the rest of the world. In Japan, it is.

    Said TTAC’s in-house expert on Japanese cultural affairs after looking at the pictures: “Now THAT’s the way to do it in Japan!”

    • 0 avatar

      Do the Japanese keep protractors handy to measure those angles?

    • 0 avatar

      They could have done a dogeza and it wouldn’t have helped them. Though it might be received with some ridicule and curiosity in the West.

      Either way they don’t really need to apologize to the Japanese public, since Japan was not subject to the previous mass recalls. Also, if Toyota wasn’t in their current situation, this recall wouldn’t have been such a big deal (Honda recalled more cars a couple weeks ago due to the possibility of fire).

      Their apologizes need to be focused on the West, primarily in North America, where the intricate trigonometry of bowing angles are irrelevant.

      In fact, the only media attention and analysis the bow got in the West was a cynical LATimes article that ended with a quote from a US congressman on what happens after the bow, “resign, or go commit suicide.”

    • 0 avatar

      L’avventura, I think the point of the Japanese apologies is an attempt to redress the shame the recall mess has brought to one of the Japan’s premier businesses, and in effect, the nation, too. I respect those traditions, as notions of honor translate easily. Toyota’s worldwide PR efforts will be all over this like white on rice, so if a deep bow means nothing to an American, I’m sure they’ll come up with something relevant.

      More importantly, Toyota appears to be serious about addressing current problems and preventing future ones. Time will tell.

    • 0 avatar

      Toasty, I’d agree that the bow was an “attempt to redress the shame the recall mess has brought to one of the Japan’s premier businesses”, but also the fact they were expected as a Japanese company to apologize in a Japanese fashion. But I seriously doubt that the bow is a crucial issue to the Japanese public, and less important to the Western public.

      Obviously there is a lot going on behind closed doors on this whole Toyota issue; from a corporate level and political level. There are two more news making opportunities of negative Toyota press; tomorrow (10th) and at the end of the month (25th).

      The media (and Toyota) have done a pretty good job stretching this news out over last few weeks, I’m not sure how much Toyota-bashing-fatigue the public is getting, but we’ll see if it was enough media stickiness to last until the end of the Winter Olympics.

  • avatar

    According to Scott Brownlee of Toyata PR in th UK, the actual number of Prius recalls is 398,403 worldwide, 8,500 in the UK

  • avatar

    I’m suprised this hasn’t been discussed more, but here is my guess as to the root cause of all these software braking issues: Overly aggressive regenerative braking, perhaps specifically designed to game the EPA cycle.

    Once you are up in the 50’s, it doesn’t take much to move the EPA numbers, where 1 MPG is less than a 2% change. I’ve heard many a rumor of cars shipping with tunes optimized for the EPA cycle, even at the expense of real world drivability, only to be fixed by a software update later in the model year.

    If the 2011 Prius comes in with slightly lower EPA numbers, I think you will have your answer.

  • avatar

    I wasn’t familiar with the Sai, so I Googled it. Looks like a sedan version of the Prius, or similar to the Lexus HS250h. Is that correct?

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Recalling for a ECU flash is considered free-falling??? Of course the interesteing part is the Fusion utilizes the “exact” same system and has yet to issue their recall. But seeing how the Prius outsells the Fusion 5-1 it’s not going to be news.

      Voluntary recall? unprecedented closing of plants to actually fix a problem (something no other manufacturer would ever do) is actually comendable in these times, the only thing you could criticze Toyota for is their PR, yet that may be subjective.

  • avatar

    I’m highly curious as to whether Toyota is having some technical difficulties with the field fix for this recall. If they have updated the current production Prius with a fix, then why is it that “The software for these models has not been finished yet.”?

    I wonder if there is not enough spare memory for the fix in shipped cars and they are trying to avoid a memory upgrade, which I’m sure would be a lot more involved than just changing a plug in SIMM. Is Toyota trying to do something like reducing code size elsewhere in the ECU to free up room for the more complex code required to fix this problem?

  • avatar

    *thunk* Another case of Perrier-Jouet lands on the receiving dock at Dearborn.

  • avatar

    Wonder how much Toyota’s perceived high quality has had to do with preventing decision makers from hearing about problems as they started occurring. A year ago, if someone complained about a Toyota malfunctioning, the complaint would result in little more than the complainer being labeled incompetent; as anyone from service advisors, CR and ambulance chasers “knew” blaming Toyota was a losing bet. Preventing Toyota corporate from picking up signals decision makers at less exalted makers would be made immediately aware of. And now, things have turned around 180, to the point where if some drunk rams into a daycare center, the main focus of the ensuing story is what part of his Toyota malfunctioned this time.

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