Word out of Japan this morning of a possible defect in Toyota’s 2010 Prius — the third generation model of the popular hybrid — adds another scuff to the reputation of an automaker already grappling with its largest ever vehicle recall. As the New York Times reports, the Japanese government on Wednesday said it has ordered the hybrid leader to investigate a potential problem with the 2010 Prius braking system after 14 complaints came in that brakes on the Prius “have momentarily stopped working when driving at low speeds, especially on slippery services.” Yikes.
This latest blow to Toyota’s reputation could also be a major pothole for the larger hybrid and green car market. The braking system on the Prius — a “regenerative” system that captures energy as the vehicle slows down and feeds it into the car’s batteries — is one of the key technologies for boosting fuel economy. Regardless of whether Toyota finds a true defect in the Prius, the shadow of doubt about safety could also make Toyota’s upcoming plug-in version of the popular model — and others like it — a tougher sell.