Toyota Announces Recall of Over 400,000 Prius Hybrids and Return to Genchi Genbutsu
February 9, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-Toyota president Akio Toyoda announced a global recall of over 400,000 Prius vehicles and other hybrids for faulty brake systems, during a lengthy press conference on Tuesday, in which Toyoda apologized for the recent quality control problems, but declared that his company was not “omnipotent.” This latest recall comes on the heels of the recall of nearly eight million vehicles for lethal accelerator problems. Despite Toyota’s insistence that the sticky gas pedal problem was not due to electronics, the Prius hybrid recall is indeed attributed to the vehicles’ computer, pointing to a software glitch.
The new recall affects about 223,000 hybrids sold in Japan, along with 133,000 Priuses and 14,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles sold in the United States. And nearly 53,000 Prius hybrids are being recalled in Europe.
Customer complaints have increased in recent months about problems with the Prius brakes briefly stopping when the vehicle is driven on uneven surfaces, like icy or snow covered roads. The 2010 model of the Prius uses a braking system that combines regenerative braking to capture energy from the wheels, as well as conventional hydraulic brakes. The problem has been attributed to the point when the anti-lock braking system system is triggered, which cuts off the deployment of the regenerative braking system causing a longer and frightening stopping distance.
Shinichi Sasaki, vice president of quality control at Toyota, noted that due to increasing customer complaints, the company decided to recall the vehicles, even though the braking system does not technically fail. “Giving the highest priority to safety of customers, we thought we simply cannot judge that there will never be accidents,” said Sasaki.
Akio Toyoda told reporters during his press conference that he test drove a Prius hybrid on a Toyota test track and experienced a “a moment of anxiety,” when the brakes briefly stopped working. Toyoda said that his company’s engineers may have designed the brakes that way to provide “more comfortable braking” for customers.
Toyoya has come under fire for its slow response to customer complaints, when the company knew there was a problem with the Prius’ braking software. In January, Toyota began repairing the software program for brakes on the Prius in its Japan factories, but didn’t notify earlier buyers of the 2010 model of the brake problem.
Toyoda, the grandson of the original founder of the company, pledged that the automaker would return to the principles of genchi genbutsu, which requires workers to experience production problems firsthand and “go and see for yourself”
“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 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.”
The recall is expected to begin in the U.S. immediately and the software fix will take about 40-minutes to repair at the dealership.
Photo Source: AFP