TOKYO — Toyota acknowledged design problems with the brakes in its Prius, adding to the catalog of safety woes at the Japanese automaker as it reels from massive global recalls involving faulty gas pedals.
Toyota Motor Corp. said it had corrected problems with the antilock brake system in Prius models sold since late last month, including those shipped overseas.
But the company was still deciding what steps to take to fix the problem in Prius cars sold in Japan and overseas before late January.
Complaints about braking problems in the Prius — the world's top-selling gas-electric hybrid — have been reported in the U.S. and Japan, a total of about 180, and come amid a recall of nearly 4.5 million vehicles for faulty gas pedals.
The flaw, which requires a software programming change to fix, makes the brakes momentarily unresponsive. Toyota was checking if there were reports of similar problems with other hybrid models though they use a different braking system from the Prius.
Whether a recall is necessary for the Prius was still undecided, according to Toyota executive Hiroyuki Yokoyama, but the transport minister urged the company to consider it and is ordering an investigation.
Paul Nolasco, a company spokesman, said the time lag for brakes kicking in felt by drivers stem from the two systems in a gas-electric hybrid — the gas engine and the electric motor.
When the car moves on a bumpy or slippery surface, a driver can feel a pause in the braking when the vehicle switches between the traditional hydraulic brakes and the electronically operated braking system, he said.
The brakes start to work if the driver keeps pushing the pedal, but the driver may momentarily feel they aren't working, he said.
A major Toyota dealership in Tokyo said the automaker had informed dealers that Prius brakes can sometimes fail to work for less than a second but it had not told owners.
"It is disappointing because the Prius was receiving such rave reviews," said Hiroyuki Naito, a manager at the dealership.