Toyota Motor Corp. announced a recall of 2.43 million hybrid vehicles around the world for a potential stalling issue.
According to Toyota, the vehicles might not enter a “failsafe” driving mode in response to certain hybrid system faults. The failsafe mode is intended to allow the vehicles to possess sufficient power to “limp home” when the gas-electric propulsion system has a problem.
Toyota stated that if the failsafe mode isn’t entered when required, the vehicle would lose power and stall. Power steering and braking would remain operational, it says, but stalling at high speed could increase the risk of a crash. No crashes have been reported as a result of the issue, but multiple stalling incidents have been reported to Toyota.
A software update that will be available soon should fix the issue, Toyota went on to say. It should be noted that Toyota admitted somewhat cryptically that the vehicles were involved in an earlier recall that “did not anticipate this new condition remedied with this recall.” This statement seems to refer to Toyota’s 2014 Prius voluntary recall due to overheating electronics, which could cause stalling as well, and which Toyota had said a software update would fix.
Whether the latest Prius software update does or does not fix the problem will likely be a bone of contention in a class action lawsuit filed against Toyota in February. In the lawsuit, Prius owners claim that the 2014 software update was not only ineffective in addressing the stalling problem but degraded their cars’ performance, and that Toyota knew it.
What was really needed was a fix to the hybrid engine itself, involving the replacement of its intelligent power module, but Toyota didn’t want to do it because it would be too costly, the lawsuit alleges. A longtime Toyota dealer in California, who is suing Toyota on separate grounds, seems to support the lawsuit’s contention as well.
The current recall affects 1.25 million vehicles in Japan, 807,000 in the United States, 290,000 in Europe, and 3,000 in China, with the rest scattered around the world. While the vast majority of vehicles recalled are Prius automobiles, some Auris hybrids are included as well. Toyota said that certain 2010 to 2014 model year Priuses (or Prii, the company’s preferred plural term) and 2012 to 2014 Prius V vehicles are involved in the U.S. recall.
The recall of the Prius wasn’t the only one Toyota announced last Friday. The auto manufacturer is also conducting a safety recall of some 168,000 2018 to 2019 Tundras and Sequoias, and 2019 Avalon vehicles in the United States. The reason is that due to “inappropriate programming in the airbag electronic control unit (ECU), a fault may be erroneously detected during vehicle startup which would disable one or more of the sensors used to detect crashes.” The fault could cause the side and curtain airbags and/or front and knee airbags to fail to deploy in a crash. A software update to the ECU should fix the problem.