Toyota in the UK has warned all owners of the first-generation Prius that the hybrid battery could leak.
The leakage, which Toyota says does not pose a safety threat, can affect all models sold in the period of 2000-03 and affects 1,239 petrol/electric hybrids in the UK.
According to a Toyota spokesman, letters have been sent to all Prius Mk1 owners on its dealer database warning them that 'a small amount of electrolyte leakage could develop around one of the hybrid battery terminals' and asking that they book the car into their dealer so the battery can be resealed.
Electrolyte is the liquid conductor at the heart of the battery that provides back-up power to the 1.5-litre engine. However, unlike with standard lead-acid batteries, the electrolyte used in the Prius's nickel metal hydride battery pack is alkaline and therefore less corrosive.
Toyota isn't classifying the work as a recall, but instead a 'customer satisfaction campaign'. That means the company have judged the problem isn't serious enough to be logged as a 'safety campaign' with the government's vehicle safety agency, VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency), but it also means Toyota isn't allowed access to DVLA records to track down owners.
The campaign comes on the heels of a global recall last year of the current Prius to cure a stalling problem identified by US owners. Some drivers had been left stranded after the computer shut down the petrol engine without warning and cut the power available from the electric motor. That affected 160,000 cars made between 2003 and 2004 and was fixed with a software patch.
Toyota has instructed dealers to give affected Prius Mk1 owners a bottle of champagne, and to return their car valeted and with a tank of fuel.
Channel 4 News