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Tokyo asks Toyota to investigate Prius

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Prius problems
  • Tokyo has asked Toyota to investigate brake malfunction complaints in Japan on its Prius
  • Move comes after more than 7 million vehicles in eight separate models have been recalled
  • Prius, the gasoline-electric hybrid, was the best-selling vehicle in Japan in 2009

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- Toyota's consumer woes deepened on Wednesday, and for the first time on native soil.

Japan's Transportation Ministry has asked Toyota to investigate brake malfunction complaints in Japan on its Prius, the gasoline-electric hybrid car which was the best-selling vehicle in the country in 2009, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

Ministry officials said 14 complaints regarding brakes in the new Prius model has been filed since July. Toyota officials said the Prius has received similar complaints from North American car dealers and that the company is investigating.

It comes after more than seven million vehicles across eight model ranges have been recalled in recent months due to problems related to accelerator pedals in North America, Europe and China. So far, the recalls haven't affected cars sold in Japan.

The Prius -- which was named "Japan Car of the Year" at the Tokyo Motor Show in November -- is not among the models involved in the global recall.

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The first incident in Japan involving a Prius was a July collision in Chiba, central Japan, when a driver was unable to stop at traffic lights, according to Hiroshi Nishino at the Transportation Ministry. Two people were slightly injured in the incident.

Most of the complainants say that they experienced brake problems when driving at relatively slow speeds

Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Paul Nolasco said there had been similar Prius complaints in North America. "The complaints received via our dealers center around when drivers are on a bumpy road or frozen surface," Nolasco said. "The driver steps on the brake and they do not get as full of a braking feel as expected."

"We are still looking into the situation, trying to determine what is going on. Beyond that, we don't have a comment at this time," he said.

Nolasco said the company had received "dozens of notifications" from dealers about the issue but would not elaborate.