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Yesterday, Toyota Motor Corp. officially closed the door on perhaps the automobile manufacturer’s most embarrassing series of events since the company was founded in 1937. Three years ago, the world’s most popular car company recalled more than 10 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles over defects that caused sudden, unintended acceleration, and cost Toyota a reported $5 billion in the process. This week, the company agreed to a $25.5 million settlement with its American shareholders, after they filed a class action lawsuit over the company’s failure to disclose these infamous defects. Unfortunately, Toyota is now dealing with another very poorly-timed recall.

Earlier this year, Toyota boasted a return to the forefront of global automobile sales, this time as the world’s leading hybrid manufacturer, in a time when environmental consciousness has been growing among automobile owners and consumers. In May, it was announced that the immensely popular hybrid Prius had not only dominated its own market, but it had also climbed into the Top 3 on global auto sales for automobiles, due to its status as the highest-selling car worldwide over the first quarter of 2012. Because of that success, the Prius trailed only Toyota’s Corolla and the Ford Focus. In all, Toyota has sold an estimated 4 million hybrids worldwide, including 1.5 million in the U.S. This week the company has announced that it will be recalling a great deal of them.

Toyota has announced through a press release on its website that it is initiating two recalls for a combined 670,000 Prius vehicles in the U.S. – and approximately 2.77 million worldwide – due to a manufacturing defect in the steering intermediate extension shaft. According to the company’s statement:

“Due to insufficient hardness treatment of some of the extension shafts, the splines that connect the extension shaft to the steering gear box may deform if the steering wheel is frequently and forcefully turned to the full left or full right position while driving at slow speeds.  This deformation may create increased internal clearance and the splines may eventually, over time, wear out.”

An estimated 350,000 of the Prius vehicles are also being recalled due to a defect in the electric water pump. According to the company’s statement:

“In the hybrid system, there is an electrically driven water pump that circulates coolant through the hybrid components to provide cooling.  There is a possibility that the electric motor installed in the water pump may stop functioning, leading to illumination of various warning lights in the instrument panel.  In limited instances, the electric power supply circuit fuse may open, causing the hybrid system to stop while the vehicle is being driven.”

While Toyota notes that no accidents or injuries have been reported in association with these recalls, the company will begin contacting owners and drivers in December to initiate the repair process. Authorized dealerships will repair the problems free of charge for affected owners. For additional information, Toyota representatives are available at (800) 331-4331.