Toyota is recalling nearly half a million of its flagship Prius and other hybrid cars due to braking problems.

The world's largest car maker is under fire for two other recalls covering more than 8m vehicles worldwide because of problems with slipping floormats and sticky accelerator pedals.

The company also faces a potential rush of litigation for crashes linked to those problems over the past decade.

437,000 units of the Toyota 2010 Prius, Sai, Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) and Lexus HS250h hybrids are the latest to be recalled.

The recall includes 155,000 vehicles in North America, 223,000 in Japan and 53,000 in Europe.

The Prius was Japan's top-selling car last year - a first for a hybrid.

The latest model Prius is sold in some 60 countries and is a hugely important model for Toyota, which is betting on the hybrid to maintain its lead in low-emission vehicles.

Japan's transport minister today criticised Toyota Motor for its handling of safety problems, saying the car giant should have been quicker to recall faulty vehicles.

‘I would like you to respect the viewpoint of drivers and I wish you had taken measures earlier rather than simply saying it was not a major technical problem,’ Transport Minister Seiji Maehara told Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

Members of the Obama administration in the US also accused the car company for moving too slowly on the recalls.

Mr Toyoda said he never believed the company was infallible, but it had always tried to repair defects swiftly.