Ottawa says concerned about Toyota situation

Thu Feb 4, 2010 4:15pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The federal government is concerned by the mounting problems plaguing Japanese automaker Toyota and is monitoring the situation closely, Industry Minister Tony Clement told reporters on Thursday.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide, including about 270,000 in Canada, due to isolated problems of unintended acceleration.

"Obviously, we've been concerned about that situation ... Transport Canada has been monitoring the situation closely and they have been engaged in discussions with Toyota, Toyota Canada in particular," Clement said.

The latest blow to the world's biggest automaker came on Thursday when U.S. safety regulators opened a formal probe into problems with the brakes on the Prius, the world's top-selling hybrid and the main driver behind Toyota's reputation for fuel-efficiency.

The Nikkei newspaper reported that Toyota would recall an estimated 270,000 units of its new Prius in the United States and Japan to fix the brake problem.

Toyota Canada said in a statement on Thursday it "is aware of a small number of isolated reports of inconsistent brake feel in certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles and we are investigating those reports."

It said some customers have reported inconsistent brake feel during slow and steady applications of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces when the anti-lock system is activated in an effort to maintain traction.

It said a running production change was introduced last month, improving the system's response time as well as its overall sensitivity to tire slippage.

"Toyota Canada is working with Transport Canada on this issue," the statement said. "However, until our investigation is completed, it would be premature to comment."

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and John McCrank in Toronto; editing by Rob Wilson)