TOKYO – Toyota will recall 270,000 Prius hybrid vehicles over brake problems in the United States and Japan, a report said Friday, while the beleaguered auto giant launched an investigation into possible problems with the brakes in two more hybrids including the luxury Lexus.
The recall would affect the new Prius hybrid model, and Toyota Motor Corp. would soon notify Japan's transport ministry and the U.S. Department of Transportation of the recall, Japan's top business newspaper, Nihon Keizai, said Friday.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK also said Toyota was considering a recall of Prius hybrids in the U.S. and Japan.
Takayuki Fujimoto, a transport ministry official, said the government has yet to receive a recall notice from Toyota. Toyota cannot announce a recall in Japan until it notifies the ministry.
Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said Friday that Toyota had not yet decided whether to recall the Prius.
"Nothing has been decided on whether we will recall or not," Takeuchi said.
The new Prius hybrid went on sale in Japan and the United States in May 2009. More than 170,000 of the new Prius models have been sold in Japan, with around 103,000 sold in the U.S. since May.
Toyota, reeling from massive global recalls of 4.5 million vehicles involving faulty gas pedals, acknowledged Thursday design problems with the brakes in its prized Prius.
Complaints about braking problems in the Prius — the world's top-selling gas-electric hybrid — have been reported in the U.S. and Japan, combining to some 180.
Shares in Toyota rebounded Friday from a 10-month low a day earlier, closing 1.1 percent higher at 3,315 yen. But they have fallen about 20 percent since Jan. 21 when the automaker announced gas pedal recalls in the U.S.
Takeuchi said Toyota has launched a probe into two more hybrids — the luxury Lexus HS250h hybrid model and the compact luxury sedan Sai— for possible brake problems as the vehicles use the same brake system as the new Prius hybrid.
"We want to ensure safety for our customers," Takeuchi said. Toyota has not received any complaints about the Lexus HS250h and the Sai. The luxury HS250h went on sale in Japan in July 2009, and September last year in North America.
Around 8,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles were sold in Japan from July to December 2009. In North America, Toyota sold 7,000 of the Lexus HS250h.
The Sai went on sale in Japan in December 2009 with sales of 3,800 units. The Sai is sold only in Japan, and Toyota said it has no plan to export the vehicle abroad.
TV Asahi said Toyota will recall the Lexus HS250h and the Sai, along with the new Prius model.
Toyota said Thursday it had corrected problems with the antilock brake system in the new Prius models sold since late last month, including those shipped overseas.
But the company said it was still deciding what steps to take to fix the problem in Prius cars sold in Japan and overseas before late January.
The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the world, racking up a cumulative 1.6 million vehicles sold so far, according to Toyota.