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These 2012 Prius sedans are among those being recalled to fix a software problem that could stress and damage transistors in the cars’ hybrid systems, Toyota said.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI • Associated Press,

Toyota recalls newest Priuses over software

  • Article by: HIROKO TABUCHI and JACLYN TROP
  • New York Times
  • February 12, 2014 - 7:44 PM

– Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling all of the 1.9 million newest-generation Prius vehicles it has sold worldwide because of a programming error that could cause their gas-electric hybrid systems to shut down, the automaker said Wednesday.

Toyota’s decision to issue such a wide-ranging recall, made voluntarily, is a marked change from its approach five years ago, when it resisted cooperating with regulators looking into problems of unintended acceleration in its vehicles.

The recall also underscores the growing complexity of today’s vehicles, which are increasingly laden with technology and electronic systems that can leave them more susceptible to problems, analysts said.

“Cars are getting more complicated,” said Jack Nerad, the executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book. “Twenty years ago, we weren’t having software glitches.”

Roughly half of the recalled Priuses are in Japan, while 713,000 are in North America and 130,000 are in Europe, according to Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo. He said the company was not aware of any accidents linked to the defect. The Prius is made only in Japan.

Toyota said that problems in software settings on the newest Prius generation — which first went on sale in 2009 — could stress and damage transistors in the hybrid systems. The problems could set off warning lights and prompt the vehicle to power down as part of a fail-safe mode, according to a news release.

“In rare circumstances, the hybrid system might shut down while the vehicle is being driven, resulting in the loss of power and the vehicle coming to a stop,” the release said. Prius owners will need to visit a dealer to fix the error.

Quality problems have continued to haunt Toyota, the world’s bestselling automaker, as it seeks to restore its reputation after the large-scale recalls over reports of unintended acceleration. Late last month, for example, Toyota halted the sale of several popular models, including the Camry and Corolla, because of concern that about 30,000 new vehicles were equipped with faulty or malfunctioning heated seats.

In Tokyo, investors appeared unfazed by the recalls. Shares in the automaker finished 0.43 percent higher after the announcement, in line with the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index. Last week, Toyota said that it was on pace to earn about $18.8 billion for its fiscal year that ends in March, its biggest-ever annual profit.

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