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Green Car, Black Eye: Toyota Prius Recall Targets Potentially Deadly Brake Issue

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Toyota shoehorned a lot of cutting-edge technology into the current-generation Prius, but the fuel-sipping vehicle has a low-tech Achilles Heel.

The automaker is recalling 340,000 2016 and 2017 Prius models to fix a potentially deadly parking brake problem, the Associated Press reports (via USA Today). In the Prius, it could lead to “sudden acceleration” of a different kind.

The automaker claims that the vehicle’s parking brake could become inoperative over time.

“If this occurs and the driver exits the vehicle with the transmission in a gear other than ‘Park’ while the ignition is on, the vehicle could roll away, increasing the risk of a crash,” the automaker said in a statement yesterday.

The Prius uses a monostable shift toggle, not unlike Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ now defunct (and notorious) unit. To engage “park,” the driver must press a button located near the shifter. Confusion sometimes reigns when dealing with these shifters, meaning a manual parking brake acts as a failsafe to stop rollaway accidents.

According to the initial AP report, the automaker has “received reports of crashes, injuries and deaths” as a result of faulty parking brakes. Toyota claimed it was looking into the reports. That story has since changed, with AP now reporting that Toyota has updated its official statement. The automaker now claims it isn’t aware of any reports of accidents linked to the fault “as of Oct. 3, 2016.”

Make of that what you will.

The majority of the recalled Prius models are in Japan. Toyota sold a further 94,000 vehicles to North American customers. In a post on its website, Toyota outlined the proposed fix.

“Toyota dealers will add clips on the top of the brake cable dust boots to prevent the cable from becoming inoperative at no cost to customers,” the automaker said, adding, “All known owners of the involved vehicles will be notified by first class mail starting in November.”

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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