Toyota plans to recall around 400,000 of its Prius hybrid cars to replace software that controls the antilock braking system (ABS), the auto maker said today (9 February).
The global recall is in response to driver complaints about poor braking performance under some conditions. It will see new software loaded into the car that should improve braking while ABS is active at low speeds, the company said.
"We heard concerns from customers and are recalling the cars in order to resolve the problem completely," said Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota, at a packed Tokyo news conference.
At issue is a reduction in braking performance when the brakes are softly applied while the car is driving on slippery surfaces such as snow, ice, or even road surfaces that have been painted over.
In normal driving conditions, the cars use hydraulic brakes and a regenerative braking system to recover energy as they slow down, but when the ABS cuts in, the cars switch to hydraulic braking only, which can result in reduced braking performance and a longer stopping distance. Toyota didn't say how much longer that distance could be.
The problem only occurs under soft braking, Toyota said. Applying increased pressure on the brake pedal when ABS is in operation will give better brake performance, the company said.
The new software, already being installed in vehicles in production, will reduce the ABS response time, Toyota said.
Toyoda said he had experienced the problem, which he called "a moment of anxiety," himself while driving a Prius on a Toyota test track.
"The vehicle will stop if you apply pressure," he said.
The recall prolongs an unprecedented spell for Toyota in which the safety of its cars has been in the spotlight. Last month the company initiated a global recall of some of its cars due to problems with the accelerator pedal.
"Let me assure everyone that we will redouble our commitment to quality as a lifeline of our company," said Toyoda. "With myself taking the lead and keeping to the genchi genbutsu principle (go to its direct location and experience the situation first hand) all of us at Toyota will tackle the issue in close cooperation with our dealers and our suppliers. Together, we will do everything in our power to regain the confidence of our customers."