Update: Kaizen Fail: Toyota Recalls 437,000 Hybrids Worldwide, Mostly 2010 Prius Models
311,000 Third Generation Prius Hybrids to be Recalled by Toyota
It seems like Toyota has yet to hit rock bottom. Last week the NHTSA announced that it would investigate the brakes of the 2010 Prius, and now we learn that a large number of 2010 Prius hybrids are about to be recalled in both the U.S. and Japan (and probably other countries too, since they all use the same braking system). It's not yet 100% official, but the decision should be announced early this week, and I'd be very surprised if they didn't go through with it (they've already recalled about 8 million other vehicles to fix gas pedals, and it would be bad PR at this point not to recall a vehicle with a known problem).
Only 2010 Prius hybrids built before January would be part of this recall, though. Toyota has admitted that it identified a flaw in the car's braking system a few months ago and solved it in the factory in January. The question is: Was this a routine adjustment, the kind that car makers often do, or was it a more serious problem that they tried to keep quiet until now? We can't assume bad faith, and there's a good chance they didn't know if the problem was serious or not, but in the current climate, it would be foolish not to do a recall and fix the known problem, even if it is small.
About 103k third gen Prius hybrids were sold in the U.S. before the problem was fixed in January, and 176k were sold in Japan (thanks to generous incentives).
It also looks like the Lexus 250h hybrid will also be recalled (about 14k vehicles). That's not very surprising since it uses the same braking system as the 2010 Prius.
One of the dangers of this whole saga is that people could start distrusting hybrids specifically. This would be a mistake, because all kinds of cars suffer from design problems (most of the Toyotas recalled are not hybrids, after all). It's a risk with all vehicles... Even bicycles can have flawed brakes and pedals.
It's true that parallel hybrids are more complex than regular gasoline and diesel vehicles, but our current gas and diesel vehicles are a lot more complex than cars used to be a few decades ago, yet reliability keeps improving. It's a surmountable problem.
Besides, parallel hybrids are just a transitional technology anyway; the goal is to move to plug-in series hybrids, and then fully electric vehicles (which are a lot more elegant mechanically).
More on Prius Problems & Recall
NHTSA to Look Into 2010 Toyota Prius Braking Problems
Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Says his Non-Recalled Prius has Acceleration Problem