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Toyota Announces Hybrid Recall

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U.S. officials said Tuesday that they are looking into complaints about steering problems in Toyota's popular Corolla model.  
This is the latest issue to trouble the world's largest automaker, which is recalling millions of vehicles to cope with unintended acceleration in some cars. Earlier Tuesday, Toyota officials said a separate problem with brakes has prompted a recall of more than 400,000 hybrid vehicles around the world including the latest Prius model.

For the world's largest automaker, it has been a steady stream of embarrassing safety lapses. On Tuesday, the company's president, Akio Toyoda, announced yet another recall.

"We submitted the recall notifications in regard to four models; the Prius, the Prius plug-in hybrid, the Sai and the HS250h," said Akio Toyoda.

The announcement brings the total number of recalled Toyota vehicles to eight and a half million. Earlier recalls involved sticky accelerator pedals on some of its most popular models including the Camry and sports utility vehicles such as the Highlander.
 
The latest recall involves a faulty braking system on more than 400 thousand Prius and Lexus hybrids sold in the U.S., Europe and Japan.  But Hong Kong car dealer Ted Lau says the delayed braking issue requires only a minor fix.

"Basically this is a very simple ABS brake system upgrade," said Ted Lau. "So it takes almost an hour to finish it."

But some customers accuse Toyota of being slow to fix the problem.  Juan Romero says he's been complaining about the issue since last year, after he nearly ran over a pedestrian.
 
"When the car lurched forward, the guy jumped out of the way and he called me every name in the book," said Juan Romero.

Toyota has taken out newspaper, Web and TV ads to apologize for letting its customers down.  But Asia Automotive News writer Hans Greimel says it may be too late to reverse the damage to Toyota's reputation.

"The Prius is largely responsible for Toyota's reputation as a green environmentally friendly car company," said Hans Greimel. "So to see that the Prius be lumped into this expanding global recall crisis is going to be a blow to Toyota's image."

Some industry analysts say the latest crisis could lead to a downgrade in the company's credit rating.  But Akio Toyoda vows his company will do better.  Toyota's top executive plans to visit U.S. Toyota plants next week.

"All of us at Toyota will tackle the issue in close cooperation with dealers and with suppliers together, we will do everything in our power to regain the confidence of our customers," he said.

The U.S. Transportation Department is looking into Toyota's quality control process to determine if Toyota acted quickly enough to deal with safety issues.  Toyota's top North American executive is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill.

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