Toyota chief apologises over car problems

Toyota’s president today apologised for the car company’s global recalls.

Akio Toyoda also promised to beef up quality control by setting up a special committee he would head himself.

He said the car maker was still deciding what to do to fix braking problems with the popular Prius gas-electric hybrid.

Mr Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota’s founder, was speaking at a hastily called news conference in Nagoya, Japan

Toyota has acknowledged the new Prius that went on sale in May last year has braking problems but Mr Toyoda did not announce a recall.

Some owners of the 2010 Prius have reported their brakes do not always engage immediately when they press the brake pedal, or that the brakes have an inconsistent feel.

The problem has been fixed with a software programming change for Prius vehicles sold in Japan and overseas since late January, but not for vehicles sold before then.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would assess the scope of the problem in the Prius and the safety risk to about 37,000 cars that could be affected. Toyota, however, has said it sold 103,000 of the new Prius in the US since May last year.

The investigation comes as safety questions surround Toyota, which has already issued broad recalls for millions of its best-selling vehicles, including the Corolla and Camry, because of accelerator pedals that can become stuck.

US officials have approved Toyota’s solution to that problem – a small piece of steel designed to eliminate excess friction in the pedal mechanism – but criticised the car maker for being too slow in responding to customer complaints.


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