Toyota has said that it will soon announce plans to deal with braking problems in its prized Prius hybrid amid reports it has decided to issue a recall for the vehicle in Japan.
Toyota Motor Corp has already had to recall more than seven million other cars in the US, Europe and China over a faulty accelerator and floor mats that can get caught in the pedal. Those problems and criticism of Toyota's response to them have sullied the stellar reputation for quality long enjoyed by one of Japan's corporate icons.
Separately, the company has told dealers in the United States it is preparing to repair the brakes on thousands of Prius vehicles there, according to an e-mail sent by a company executive. It was unclear whether Toyota planned a formal US recall.
"We will make an announcement soon on the action we plan to take," spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said, commenting on media reports that the company has decided to issue a Japan recall. Takeuchi did not confirm those reports.
The Prius is the world's top-selling petrol-electric hybrid and its fuel efficiency has drawn intense interest amid concerns about global warming and dependence on fossil fuels.
Toyota decided on a recall in Japan covering its latest Prius model and has notified domestic dealers, Japan's largest newspaper, the Yomiuri, reported without naming sources. It said Toyota would announce the move early this week after consulting with the Japanese government.
Japan's Kyodo News agency and TV Asahi carried similar reports. Kyodo said Toyota had started notifying dealers and that at least 170,000 vehicles in Japan would be subject to the recall.
Prius drivers in Japan and the US have complained of a short delay before the brakes kick in -- a flaw Toyota says can be fixed with a software programming change. The lag occurs as the car is switching between brakes for the petrol engine and the electric motor -- a process that is key to the hybrid's increased mileage.
The brake problem affects about 270,000 Priuses that were sold in the US and Japan starting last May. The company blames a software glitch and says it has already fixed vehicles that went on sale since last month.
Bob Carter, a Toyota group vice president, sent an e-mail message on Friday night to US dealers saying the car maker is working on a Prius repair plan and will disclose more details early this week.