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Toyota Recalling 160,000 Prius Hybrids for Possible Engine Problem

TOKYO October 14, 2005; The AP reported that Toyota is recalling 160,000 Prius gasoline-electric hybrid cars worldwide because their engines can stop due to an electrical problem, Japan's top automaker said Friday.

No accidents or injuries have been reported linked to the problem, in which engines in some Prius cars have stalled while driving, causing the vehicles to run just on the electric motor, Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Hideki Fujii said. A glitch in the computer programming controlling the electronic units is believed to be behind the problem, he said.

The recall covers 75,000 Prius cars in the United States, 70,000 in Japan and the remainder in Europe, Australia and other markets, manufactured from August 2003 through February 2005.

Toyota is not disclosing the costs for the recall, Fujii said. Toyota dealers will repair affected vehicles for free.

Toyota, which started selling the Prius in 1997, has led the global auto market with hybrids, which switch back and forth between a gasoline engine and battery-powered electric motor to deliver the most efficient and ecological ride, depending on the driving conditions and speed of the car. Toyota sold 125,700 Prius vehicles globally last year.

The company began investigating the problem after the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received reports of Prius engines stalling. But the problem is not an immediately safety problem because drivers can count on the hybrid's electric motor to steer to the side of the road, Fujii said.

NHTSA closed its investigation after Toyota said it would voluntarily recall the vehicles.