A recall has been issued for all second-generation (model years 2004-2009) Prius vehicles, a total of 670,000 cars in the US, according to Toyota. The recall is for a potential defect in the car’s steering, but there is also another recall on about half the same cars for a water pump issue. The recall comes just a month after an even bigger recall on power window switches which were said to have the potential to start fires. Recalls have sometimes hurt automakers’ reputations, but Toyota has learned better than anyone than not doing a recall is sometimes even worse, and many consumers now actually feel reassured by the transparency of recalls.
As The New York Times reports, the recall has been issued because the metal used for the steering columns wasn’t hard enough, and wear can lead to noisy steering and a feeling that the steering is no longer working while at full lock. But it should be said that the steering does not actually go out in these situations, and that Toyota says no actual accidents have been reported as a result of the design defect. The water pump issue is a slightly bigger one, but still hasn’t caused any accidents. The pump in question is part of the cooling system for the batteries and other parts of the hybrid system. If the pump goes bad, it could cause a check engine light to come on, and in some extreme cases, will cause the car to shut down. Toyota says that steering columns will be checked, and if they need to be replaced, it should take about an hour. The water pump replacement will take about two hours.
Newer Prius model aren’t part of the recall, and Toyota was quick to point out that all of the cars in question were built before Toyota made a pledge to rededicate themselves to quality assurance, following the unintended acceleration debacle of 2009. In other markets, the recall has included several other models, but the Prius was the only US-market model to use this particular steering column. The Prius has proven to be remarkably problem-free thus far, and it was predicted by Consumer Reports that the 2013 model will be the most reliable car on American roads. Toyota is somewhat embarrassed by the recall, since they see the Prius as the standard bearer for the company’s technological achievements. But considering just how much advanced technology is packed into a Prius, this is really a pretty minor issue.