Politics & Government

State parks its 2010 Prius fleet

Officials say they have temporarily halted their state agencies' use of the 2010 Toyota Prius, a popular gasoline and electric hybrid car that has been the subject of a global recall to correct a brake problem.

The state Department of General Administration, which manages about 1,800 vehicles as part of the state motor pool, announced Tuesday that all six of its 2010 Prius models have been pulled from service until the problem can be corrected, spokesman Steve Valandra said.

Two of those vehicles are in a warehouse in Auburn, three are at a state Department of Labor and Industries office in Spokane and one is in Everett at a state Department of Personnel office, he said.

“We just removed them as a precautionary measure,” Valandra said.

At issue has been a problem with the car’s anti-lock brake system; some owners have reported “experiencing an inconsistent brake feel or the steady application of brakes on rough or slick road surfaces,” according to a Toyota announcement this week.

The recall in the U.S. affects 133,000 2010 Prius vehicles and 14,550 2010 Lexus division HS 250h vehicles, according to a news release. It follows an earlier announcement in which a large number of Toyota brands were recalled because of issues related to a sticking gasoline pedal. Globally, 8.5 million Toyota trucks and cars, including about 440,000 Prius vehicles, are subject to current recalls, The Associated Press has reported.

Representatives at Toyota of Olympia declined to comment Tuesday, but Michael Dobrin, a spokesman for Toyota in the San Francisco Bay Area, said dealerships will begin receiving replacement microchips this week or early next week to upgrade the software for the Prius and Lexus braking systems. Worldwide Toyota losses as a result of all the recalls are estimated at $1.5 billion to $2 billion, Dobrin said.

The Health and Recovery Services Administration, a division of the state Department of Social and Health Services, operates one 2010 Prius at its Cherry Street Plaza offices in downtown Olympia, vehicle coordinator Ken Rose said. The gold-colored car, which was purchased in October for about $24,000, was pulled out of service this week and is scheduled to undergo repairs Tuesday, he said. The Health and Recovery Services Administration also operates a 2008 Prius, but that model does not require repairs, Rose said.

State agencies have been encouraged to use hybrid vehicles because they are considered environmentally friendly and offer better fuel mileage, said Kelly Richters, facility manager for the Health and Recovery Services Administration. Of the 1,800 cars managed by GA, about 50 percent are hybrids, including Ford Escapes and Honda Civics.

GA spokesman Jim Erskine said the state’s motor pool was not affected by the earlier Toyota recall that covered more Toyota models.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403