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Toyota orders global Prius recall

Toyota is recalling its 2010 Prius and Lexus hybrids worldwide because of brake problems, marking another setback for a carmaker already plagued with recalls and suspended sales because of safety issues.


FOR THE RECORD:
Toyota recall: An article in the LATExtra section Tuesday about Toyota’s recall of its 2010 Prius and Lexus hybrids worldwide because of brake problems omitted the first name of Akio Toyoda, the company’s president and grandson of the founder. —


The recall will include 437,000 vehicles, including 133,000 Prius and 14,500 Lexus models in the U.S. to update software in their anti-lock brake systems.

In addition, the company is recalling about 7,300 of its 4-cylinder 2010 Camrys in the U.S., also for a possible brake-related problem. The cars will be inspected to check for the position of a hose that could burst, causing brake fluid leaks and loss of braking power.

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In the U.S. the company will send letters to owners of the 2010 Prius and Lexus cars beginning next week to let them know to bring their vehicles into dealerships.

The recall of the gas-sipping 2010 Prius, which Toyota has used to cement its image as an environmentally friendly and technologically advanced automaker, is another blow to the company’s reputation for building reliable vehicles.

“If you ask any consumer today to name the top three hybrids, Prius would be No. 1 and they wouldn’t be able to name No. 2,” said James Ellis, dean of USC’s Marshall School of Business.

Toyota might have waited too long, after initial reports of problems with the Prius, to announce a recall, he said.

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“They just have not addressed this fast enough,” Ellis said. “This should have been just a typical recall.”

Toyota’s problems with the Prius come after the recall of more than 9 million vehicles worldwide in recent months after reports of unintended acceleration, which the automaker has blamed on gas pedals that stick and on floor mats that can entrap the gas pedal.

Before the Prius announcement, the automaker said its recalls and lost sales would cost $2 billion.

Historically, Toyota has offered among the smallest discounts and sales incentives in the industry, but now it is seeing declines in what people are willing to pay for its vehicles.

Auto pricing information company Kelley Blue Book said Monday that used-car values for Toyota have declined 2.5% to 4.5%, or $300 to $750, in recent weeks. It initially pegged the drop at 1% to 3% last week.

“At this point, it’s clear that the market is shifting away from Toyotas,” said Juan Flores, a Kelley analyst.

Toyota last week began offering a sales incentive of $1,000 on new Prius hybrids.

Toyota has sold 1.6 million Prius hybrids globally since the vehicle first appeared in dealer showrooms 10 years ago. About half the sales through 2009 have been in the U.S. California is the car’s biggest market.

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Toyota has been dealing with complaints from people such as Vicki Arkoff, 49, a writer from Sherman Oaks. Arkoff said her 2010 Prius tends to surge forward as she brakes over a pothole or a bump. The sudden, disconcerting lurch has twice caused her to almost hit other vehicles, she said.

“I’m not entirely comfortable driving it,” she said.

She bought the car during the summer “cash for clunkers” incentive program, and the problem started within a month. But she said she has been unable to contact Toyota’s clogged call center.

“They’re still in denial about this Prius issue, because they have enough headaches as it is,” she said.

Meanwhile, the automaker moved to shore up its image in the U.S. by launching a national television advertising campaign Sunday. The 60-second spot shows nostalgic photos and video clips, many shot in Southern California, while a calming male voice talks about how the company has sold “safe, reliable, high-quality vehicles” in the U.S. for more than 50 years. The narrator then talks about how Toyota has not lived up to its customers’ expectations and talks about what the company is doing to remedy the problems.

Late last month, Toyota temporarily suspended the sale of eight popular models affected by the sticky gas pedal recall and halted production of the vehicles at its U.S. factories during the first week of February while it worked on a fix. Both sales and production have resumed. The quality problems prompted Akio Toyoda, the company’s president and grandson of the founder, to issue an apology Friday.

Toyoda said he was “deeply sorry about the inconvenience and concern caused to our customers and others.”

Toyoda said the automaker had reached a “moment of crisis” and would form a global task force to improve quality.

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jerry.hirsch

@latimes.com

Hirsch reported from Los Angeles. Masters is a freelance writer based in Tokyo. Times staff writer Tiffany Hsu contributed to this report.


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