Toyota announced Wednesday a global recall of 1.9 million Prius hybrid cars because of a fault that can cause the vehicle to slow down suddenly.
The company said it decided on the recall — the biggest for the environmentally friendly vehicle — after it was discovered there were problems in the software that controls a power converter.
“In the worst case, the car could stop while driving. We do consider this a potential safety issue and that’s the reason why we are implementing this recall,” a Toyota spokesman said in Tokyo.
No accidents have been reported as a result of the defect, the world’s biggest automaker said.
In most cases the defect could set off the vehicle’s warning lights and “probably” cause it to enter “fail-safe mode,” in which the car can still be driven but with reduced power, Toyota said.
“It would slow down, eventually to stop,” a spokeswoman added.
Toyota, a leader in the production of environmentally friendly cars, said it was aware of more than 400 cases of the problem, including 300 in Japan and 90 in North America.
Subject to recall are Prius hybrids made between March 2009 and this month. The recall covers about 997,000 vehicles in Japan and 713,000 vehicles in North America. Most of the rest are in Europe, the Middle East and China.
The company recalled Prius models last year and in 2010 for different problems.
Last year, Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada challenged the automaker to step up sales of hybrids in the United States, calling them “a long bridge” into future vehicles.
He was chief engineer of the team that developed the Prius, the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car.
Toyota and other Japanese automakers have had to recall millions of vehicles in recent years, damaging their long-held reputation for quality and safety.
In October, a U.S. court found Toyota was not to blame for a fatal crash involving claims of unintended acceleration, a case that sparked huge global recalls and badly dented the company’s reputation. But weeks later, the automaker lost a related court case in which it was found at fault for a fatal accident.
Toyota earlier agreed to pay about $1.1 billion to settle a class action lawsuit launched by U.S. vehicle owners affected by the series of mass recalls.
The company did not accept any blame but agreed to compensate owners of about 16.3 million vehicles who said the value of their cars had been reduced because of the recall.