Japan Says Toyota Prius Will Be Recalled

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TOYOTA CITY, Japan February 6, 2010; Taiga Uranaka and Nathan Layne writing for Reuters reported that Toyota Motor Corp, which has recalled more than 8 million vehicles around the world for problems with unintended acceleration, has decided to recall its new Prius hybrid in Japan to fix a braking software glitch, a dealer said Sunday.

Safety regulators in both the United States and Japan, the Prius's biggest markets, are investigating braking problems with the model, Japan's top-selling car last year and an icon of green design that has lifted the public image of Toyota.

Toyota said last week it planned to make a final decision on whether to issue a recall or voluntary repair as soon as possible. The dealer, who declined to be identified, said the recall could come in the next few days.

Toyota's president apologized Friday for safety problems.

"I would like to take this opportunity to apologize from the bottom of my heart for causing many of our customers concern after the recalls across several models in several regions," Akio Toyoda, the grandson of Toyota's founder, told a news conference in Nagoya.

He said the company would make an announcement on the Prius soon.

U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co last week decided to roll out a software patch for consumers to address similar problems with braking on the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan models. It said it notified its dealers of the problem in October but not the public because it did not believe the glitch represented a brake failure.

Toyota officials were not immediately available to comment.

Toyota has come under intense scrutiny, with U.S. safety authorities and members of the Obama administration accusing it of responding too slowly on problems related to uncontrolled acceleration that have been linked to up to 19 crash deaths in the United States over the past decade.

Japan's Transport Minister Seiji Maehara said Friday he believed Toyota would take a unified measure on the Prius across the world.

Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported Sunday that Toyota had considered voluntarily fixing the cars but chose a recall instead in the hope of restoring public trust.

Since its launch last May, Toyota has sold over 300,000 of the newest version of the Prius worldwide, including around 200,000 in Japan, 103,200 in the United States and 29,000 in Europe.

Additional reporting for Reuters by Chang-Ran Kim and Rika Otsuka; Editing by Nick Macfie

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