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Toyota Prius update: Brake complaints continue, U.S. government considers sanctions

The turbulent times for Toyota Motor Corp. now include problems with the most world’s most popular hybrid — the Toyota Prius. Toyota has received more than 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan about brake problems with the popular Prius hybrid.

Less than two weeks ago, the Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla, the carmaker’s top-selling vehicles, were among eight Toyota models involved in a recall of more several  millions vehicles with potentially faulty accelerator pedal.

The U.S. 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 new Prius gas-electric hybrid, which went on sale in Japan and the U.S. in May 2009, is not part of the recalls that extend to Europe and China, covering nearly 4.5 million vehicles.

The Prius, now in its third generation since its 1997 introduction, has sold 1.6 million units, according to Toyota. It’s the third-best selling Toyota car behind the Camry and Corolla.

The Corolla is the biggest-selling car in history. More than 35 million Corollas have been purchased since the car debuted in 1974.

Toyota is now facing growing criticism that it has not done enough to ensure the safety of its vehicles.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the Associated Press federal officials had to alert Toyota to the seriousness of the safety issues that eventually led to the recalls.

LaHood also said the U.S. government was considering civil penalties for Toyota not acting quickly enough regarding the safety concerns.

Toyota executive vice president Shinichi Sasaki acknowledged Tuesday in a Nagoya, Japan, news conference that it took prodding from NHTSA officials for the company to decide on the U.S. recall.

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