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Nearly 800 Toyota Prius cars in New Zealand need to be repaired after reports of the hybrid vehicles' cooling systems failing.

The automaker giant is offering to replace the coolant pumps in 470,000 Prius cars worldwide, but is insisting the move is not a recall.

Toyota New Zealand after sales general manager Paul Carroll said the electric water pump responsible for cooling the hybrid system was not circulating fluid efficiently, meaning it could overheat.

"If this happens it can go into fail safe, limp-home mode, in which case you'll get low power. It'll still run, but you won't have full power." The problem was not a safety concern, he said.

There were only 28 reported cases of the problem occurring worldwide - none of which were in New Zealand - but 795 of the vehicles sold here would be repaired anyway. It was more likely the problem would cause the cars to overheat in warmer climates, he said.

About 30 Toyota Priuses had been sold in New Zealand every month for the past year or so.

The problem is the latest in a series of recalls and incidents that have tarnished Toyota's reputation for quality.

The carmaker recalled more than eight million Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide in 2009 and this year, including 6.5 million in the United States, mainly due to complaints about unintended acceleration.

Mr Carroll said Toyota would contact Prius customers as quickly as possible to arrange for their cars to be repaired free of charge.

- NZPA