Toyota is recalling 75,000 Prius petrol-electric hybrid cars in the US because their engines can stall due to an electrical problem, as part of a global recall of 160,000 units.

Kyodo News said the recalled cars, which were produced between August 2003 and November 2004, include 70,000 units sold in Japan and 75,000 units in the United States.

The Associated Press (AP) said some 2004 and early 2005 model year Prius cars are being recalled because, in affected vehicles, dashboard warning lights may come on and the petrol engine shuts down. The vehicle’s electric motor will continue operating in a limited capacity, so drivers can steer to the side of the road. The petrol engine may start working again if the driver restarts the vehicle.

Toyota spokesman Xavier Dominicis told the news agency the automaker began investigating the problem after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received 68 reports of Prius engines stalling.

NHTSA closed its investigation after Toyota said it would voluntarily recall the vehicles – owners will be notified starting this month, AP said.

The Associated Press said vehicles may need to have their software reprogrammed and dealers may also apply a waterproof grease that will prevent water from getting into the electrical system, though Toyota stressed that the defect isn’t related to the hybrid system and could happen to any vehicle.