WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government has opened an investigation of the hot-selling hybrid Toyota Prius amid reports of the engine stalling without warning, officials said Wednesday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the preliminary investigation will involve about 75,000 cars of the 2004-2005 model years.
The Prius has been a hugely popular model in the United States, leading to waiting lists. Automotive experts have said it is the first economy car with a higher resale value.
Hybrid vehicles deliver better mileage by switching between a gasoline engine and an electric motor. Toyota Motor Corp. leads in hybrid sales, with cumulative global sales of 381,500.
The agency said it has received 33 complaints of alleged engine stalling. The majority of the complaints involved reports of the engine stalling at speeds of 35 miles per hour and 65 mph.
Some of the complaints indicated that the vehicle was operated in electric mode for some period after the gas engine stalled, NHTSA said.
All of the complaints reported that the engine shut down without warning and about half of the complaints said that when the engine shut off, the vehicle would not restart and required the vehicle to be towed.
Toyota officials said last month they were investigating complaints about the Prius stalling. More than 88,000 2004 and 2005 Prius cars have been sold in the United States.
Toyota executives did not have any immediate comment on the government's investigation.