Tucked into the business sections of newspapers today is this story: The feds are investigating claims that Toyoto Prius engines may unexpectedly stall out at highway speeds.

The development may be but a hiccup interruption for Toyota, as the automaker continues to press its green advantage on American consumers while American automakers stand pat (or worse) on fuel efficiency. After all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received only 33 complaints about stalled engines — a small number given the something like 75,000 Priuses on the road for the model years 2004 and 2005.

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On the other hand, if there is any credence to the claims, one can envision the concerns spiralling into a whirl of negative publicity for Toyota — something that opponents of California’s clean-car standards (e.g., GM) would certainly take quick advantage of. Here’s hoping that there’s no opening for a “Hybrid Veterans for Truth” campaign to get off the ground.

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