WRAPUP 2-Toyota chief to address safety as Prius recall eyed

venerdì 5 febbraio 2010 11:27

  For more on Toyota's safety recall, click [ID:nN27231388]
 * Akio Toyoda to face media on safety issues at 1200 GMT
 * Toyota preparing recall of new Prius - source
 * Ford to fix software on hybrids to address brake issue
 * Ford shares down, Toyota steadies after 2 week slump
 * Toyota has lost a fifth of its market value since recall
 (Recasts with Toyoda briefing plans, Transport min comments)
 By Nobuhiro Kubo and Bernie Woodall
 TOKYO/DETROIT, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quotazione)
President Akio Toyoda will front up on Friday for the first
time over a string safety issues rocking the company as it
prepared to recall its iconic Prius hybrid over braking
 Toyota, the world's No.1 automaker, is already recalling
some 8 million cars around the world for problems related to
unintended acceleration which have been linked to up to 19
crash deaths in the United States over the past decade.
 Except for a brief, impromtu interview with a Japanese
broadcaster while in Switzerland a week ago, Toyoda has not
been seen on the issue, prompting criticism from public
relations experts and consumers about the company's response to
the crisis. [ID:nTOE612039]
 Toyoda, 53, is the grandson of Toyota's founder who took
over as president last year with a promise to steer the company
out of its worst downturn in history and bring greater
transparency to its sprawling corporate culture.
 Toyota said he will brief media in Nagoya, near its Toyota
City headquarters, at 9.00 p.m. (1200 GMT)
 Kazutaka Oshima, president of Rakuten Investment
Management, said Toyoda needed to explain what was happening.
 "A listed company, which has raised money from the capital
markets, is a public entity and if the management does not want
to fulfill such responsibilities it should go private," he
said. "Toyoda is responsible for explaining to shareholders
since they have lost a significant part of their assets."
 Toyota shares have lost about $30 billion or a fifth of
their value since Jan. 21 when it launched a U.S. recall
related to faulty accelerator pedals.
 Safety regulators in both the United States and Japan are
now investigating braking problems with the company's latest
version of the Prius, a pioneer in gasoline-electric hybrids
and Japan's top-selling car last year.
 A source with knowledge of Toyota's discussions with
Japanese safety authorities told Reuters on Friday the company
was leaning towards issuing a recall.
 Japan's transport minister said he had heard from ministry
officials that Toyota would recall or voluntarily fix the
Prius' affected, including those shipped overseas.
 Since its launch last May, Toyota has sold 311,000 units of
the newest version of the Prius -- around 200,000 in Japan and
another 103,200 in the United States.
 Analysts said the latest problems were a further unwelcome
development for Toyota, but would not necessarily cause
permanent damage to its image.
 "If Toyota can fix the faulty brakes properly and quickly,
I don't think it will have any long-term impact on the brand,"
said Zhang Xin, an analyst with Guotai Junan Securities in
Beijing. "After all it's been so popular in North American for
so many years."
 In what could be deemed a broader problem with hybrid cars,
Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quotazione) said on Thursday it would roll out a
software patch for consumers to address similar problems with
braking reported on its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan models.
 To read a Breaking Views column on Toyota, click on
 To view a Reuters Insider Breaking Views, see:
 Breakingviews: Fine Mess for Toyota
 See also: Toyota Options Bullishness Proves Fleeting
 The Prius has emerged as a kind of environmental "halo car"
for Toyota, an icon of green design with an intense following
among loyalists, which has lifted the public image of the whole
 "I feel a bit anxious," said 61-year-old Yasuo Ishizuka,
who drives a Prius taxi in Tokyo. "As a taxi driver security is
very important to me and hearing that such troubles occured to
brakes, I cannot drive feeling safe anymore."
 Both Toyota's and Ford's hybrids capture the energy from
braking to recharge an on-board battery to boost mileage from
its gasoline engine.
 On bumpy roads and on ice, the regenerative brakes appear
to slip, allowing the vehicle to lurch forward before the
traditional brakes engage, Prius owners have said.
 The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
said it has received 124 complaints from drivers of the
third-generation Prius. Four crashes were alleged by motorists
to have been caused by the problems, NHTSA said.
 Both Toyota and Ford said they had come up with software
fixes for the problem. Toyota said it had started fixing the
problems last month, a step it only revealed on Thursday.
 Ford's action came after Consumer Reports said one of its
test engineers had experienced what appeared to be a loss of
braking power with a Fusion hybrid.
 Ford said it was aware of one minor accident related to the
braking problem but no injuries.
 The No.2 U.S. automaker by sales notified its dealers of
the problem in October but not the public because it did not
believe the glitch represents a failure of the brakes.
 Ford shares were ended almost 5 percent lower on Thursday.
 Shares in Toyota picked up from a 10-month low on Friday in
Tokyo after it reported better-than-expected quarterly results
and raised its outlook despite its growing recall-related
problems. [ID:nTOE61300G] [ID:nN04116985]
 The stock ended up 1.1 percent at 3,315 yen defying a sharp
drop in other auto stocks and the broader market. .N225
 "The issues facing Toyota are not going to be solved that
easily," said Nagayuki Yamagishi, a strategist at Mitsubishi
UFJ Securities. "What we're seeing today is a technical rebound
because it was sold so much."
 (Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Yumiko Nishitani,
Taiga Uranaka and Elaine Lies in TOKYO; Fang Yan in SHANGHAI;
John Crawley in WASHINGTON; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing
by Jean Yoon)