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WRAPUP 8-Toyota recalls new Prius in latest safety fix

 (For more on Toyota's safety recall, click on
[ID:nN27231388])
 * Toyota recalling 437,000 hybrids globally
 * Thousands of new Camrys also added to recall list
 * U.S. authorities to continue Prius probe, despite recall
 * Congress postpones hearing due to East Coast snow storm
 (Recasts first sentence, adds Camry recall, delay in
congressional hearing, analyst comment, other details, changes
dateline from TOKYO/WASHINGTON)
 By John Crawley and Soyoung Kim
 WASHINGTON/DETROIT, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The spiraling crisis
at Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T TM.N deepened on Tuesday as the
automaker said it would recall thousands of Camry sedans as
well as nearly half a million new Prius and other hybrid cars
to fix steering and braking problems.
 U.S. regulators also said they are reviewing dozens of
complaints about potential steering problems in newer Toyota
Corollas.
 News of the recalls, the latest in a string of embarrassing
Toyota product problems that have affected more than 8.5
million vehicles globally, came as a U.S. congressional
committee postponed a hearing scheduled for Wednesday to
examine the recalls and Toyota's response to reports of safety
problems with top-selling cars.
 In a document sent to U.S. dealers on Tuesday and obtained
by Reuters, Toyota said the 2010 Camrys equipped with a
4-cylinder engine might have a shorter-than-required power
steering pressure hose in the engine compartment.
[ID:nN09109575]
 That could deplete the brake fluid, increasing the brake
pedal stroke and making it more difficult and requiring more
time to stop the vehicle, Toyota said.
 Toyota notified the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration on Tuesday of its intention to conduct a
voluntary safety recall, the document showed.
 Toyota ended days of speculation on Tuesday and recalled
more than 400,000 hybrid models, including the latest version
of its iconic Prius, to rectify a problem with the regenerative
brakes that help charge the cars' electric batteries.
 Toyota President Akio Toyoda said he may travel to the
United States next week to tackle criticism that his company
moved too slowly on earlier recalls. [ID:nTKG006643]
 Oliver Hazimeh, a consultant with PRTM in Detroit, said he
did not expect the problems with the Prius to slow the rollout
of gas-saving hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles from Toyota or
other automakers.
 But he said it was odd that Toyota had missed the potential
glitch in the third-generation vehicle since such issues tend
to be worked out earlier in the process.
 "It's a product development concern," said Hazimeh, who
specializes in auto industry and electric-car development
questions.
 "This is not a new technology, so it's puzzling why it was
not caught."
The latest moves follow a string of recalls over the past
few months triggered initially by concerns that a loose
floormat or a sticky accelerator pedal could lead to unintended
acceleration.
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 For a Graphic, click:
here
For Reuters Insider financial television, click:  
 link.reuters.com/wad58h
 Toyota's Troubles Go Into Overdrive:
 link.reuters.com/fev58h
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 LONG-TERM FALLOUT
 In Japan, Transport Minister Seiji Maehara added to U.S.
criticism, telling Toyoda he had hoped for swifter action.
 "Recalling defective products is important, but each
country needs to consider how to prevent this from becoming a
diplomatic problem," he told reporters, adding the U.S.
response had been "extremely measured" so far. [ID:nTOE618085]
[ID:nLDE61818S]
 The U.S. government will continue its investigation into
2010 Prius hybrids even though Toyota has recalled the model,
the Transportation Department said on Tuesday. [ID:nN09229342]
 Ratings agency Moody's said it was reviewing Toyota's "AA1"
rating for a possible downgrade. [ID:nWLB7114]
 Toyota also faces potential litigation over 19 deaths and
numerous injuries in crashes linked to the acceleration
problems as well as class-action lawsuits over the brake
problems with the Prius. [ID:nN08218059]
 Shares of Toyota, which lost about a fifth of their value
since late January, closed 2.4 percent higher on the New York
Stock Exchange on Tuesday as the market welcomed signs that the
problems were finally being addressed.
 But the carmaker faces long-term fallout from the crisis,
analysts said. "The wave of media and government attention will
not subside quickly, with lasting damage now looking
unavoidable," said IHS Global Insight analyst Paul Newton.
 Toyota is likely to lose more than 10,000 sales for both
January and February, Newton projected.
 The effects in the coming months will depend on how quickly
Toyota can get a fix into production," he said. "The
longer-term effects from lost sales to younger buyers could be
much more serious, however," he added.
 The latest model Prius is sold in some 60 countries and is
a hugely important model for Toyota, which is betting on the
hybrid to maintain its lead in low-emission vehicles. The Prius
was Japan's top-selling car last year, a first for a hybrid.
 "Toyota has been, beyond any doubt, the top player in the
hybrid car segment, and the fact that Prius and other hybrid
models will be part of this massive recall significantly dents
its image" and opens the door for competitors, said Suh
Sung-moon, analyst at Korea Investment & Securities in Seoul.
 GLOBAL RECALL
 Toyota said it was recalling a total of 437,000 units of
its 2010 Prius, Sai, Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and Lexus
HS250h hybrids globally, including 155,000 in North America,
223,000 in Japan and 53,000 in Europe.
 Toyota said repairs to fix the problem would take around 40
minutes per car and that, in the meantime, pressing hard on the
brake pedal would stop the vehicle.
 Some owners of the third-generation Prius have complained
that on bumpy roads and ice, the brakes seem to slip and the
car lurches forward before the traditional brakes engage.  
"Let me assure everyone that we will redouble our commitment to
quality as a lifeline of our company", Toyoda told a news
conference in Tokyo.
 "With myself taking the lead, and by keeping to the 'genchi
genbutsu' principle, all of us at Toyota will tackle the issue
in close cooperation with dealers and suppliers together, we
will do everything in our power to regain the confidence of our
customers," he said, first in Japanese, then in English.
 Genchi genbutsu, meaning "go and see," is one of the five
principles in Toyota's much-emulated management and production
philosophy.
 (Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo, Mayumi Negishi, Elaine
Lies and Linda Sieg in TOKYO; Toshi Maeda in TOYOTA CITY; David
Bailey and Bernie Woodall in DETROIT; Steve Gorman in LOS
ANGELES; John Crawley in WASHINGTON, Jungyoun Park in SEOUL and
Helen Massy-Beresford in PARIS; Writing by James B. Kelleher
and Lincoln Feast; Editing by David Cowell and Matthew Lewis)


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