"I apologize for causing trouble and worries for many customers over the quality and safety of Toyota," President Akio Toyoda said at a press conference Tuesday in Tokyo.
"We sincerely acknowledge safety concerns from our customers," he said. "We have decided to recall as we regard safety for our customers as our foremost priority."
The recall is the latest blow to Toyota Motor Corp., which is in the midst of recalling more than 7 million vehicles worldwide because of problems with floor mats, which can trap gas pedals, and faulty gas pedals that are slow to return to the idle position. The Prius wasn't part of those recalls.
There have been about 200 complaints in Japan and the U.S. about a delay when the brakes in the Prius were pressed in cold conditions and on some bumpy roads. The delay doesn't indicate a brake failure. The company says the problem can be fixed by reprogramming the software that controls the braking system.
Toyota officials went to Japan's Transport Ministry earlier Tuesday to formally notify officials the company is recalling the 2010 Prius gas-electric hybrid -- the world's top-selling hybrid car. The automaker is also recalling two other hybrid models in Japan, the Lexus HS250h sedan, sold in the U.S. and Japan, and the Sai, which is sold only in Japan.
The 223,000 cars being recalled in Japan include nearly 200,000 Priuses sold from April last year through Monday, according to papers the automaker filed with the ministry. The Prius is Japan's top-selling car. In the U.S., Toyota will recall 133,000 Prius cars and 14,500 Lexus HS250h vehicles. The Prius is also being recalled in Europe.
Toyoda has been criticized for being largely invisible during the two weeks after the company announced Jan. 21 the gas pedal recall in the U.S., Europe and China.
He apologized at his first public press conference last Friday, but was criticized by the Japanese media for failing to outline concrete steps to tackle the safety crisis and reassure customers around the world.
Speaking in English at the end of his statement Tuesday, Toyoda said, "We will redouble our commitment to quality as a lifeline of our company. We will do everything in our power to regain the confidence of our customers."