The Japanese government said Wednesday it has received 14 complaints in Japan about brake problems with Toyota’s popular Prius hybrid.
The automaker’s sales are being battered in the US after massive recalls of top-selling models to fix a gas pedal that can stick in the depressed position. The new Prius gas-electric hybrid, which went on sale last year, is not part of the global recalls which cover nearly 4.5 million vehicles.
The 14 complaints included an accident in July 2009, in which a Prius crashed head on into another car at an intersection. Transport ministry official Masaya Ota said two people were slightly injured in the accident.
“The complaints involve the new Toyota Prius model, and the vehicles were all made in Japan,” Ota said. “Prius drivers complained brakes were not so sharp.”
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 100 complaints involving the brakes of the Prius new model. Two involved crashes resulting in injuries.
The ministry ordered Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s No. 1 automaker, to investigate the complaints. The other 13 cases happened from December to January 2010. Ota said the ministry has yet to receive a formal report on the complaints from Toyota.
Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said the company is looking into the matter.
Toyota shares dropped 3.7 percent to 3,470 yen in the morning session Wednesday.
The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, is the best-selling gas-electric hybrid in the world, racking up a cumulative 1.6 million units sold so far, according to Toyota.
Hybrids, by going back and forth between a gasoline engine and electric motor, tend to offer better mileage in slow-speed and stop-and-go driving that’s common in crowded cities.