Tokyo - Toyota Motor has called back more than 6 million vehicles to fix a range of safety defects in one of the biggest recalls in automotive history.
The largest car maker had found five types of safety hazards in vehicles including some of its top sellers, such as Camrys, RAV4s and Corollas, it said yesterday. It was not aware of any injuries or fatalities linked to the defects.
The recall, Toyota’s second-biggest since late 2012, is a setback for president Akio Toyoda, who has spent years trying to restore the company’s reputation for quality after calling back millions of vehicles in 2009 and 2010 because of unintended acceleration.
“This is Toyota being more active in calling back vehicles to ensure quality. The number is big, but the faults are minor and not critical,” Takaki Nakanishi, a Tokyo-based analyst for Jefferies Group, said.
“Something is wrong,” Koji Endo, an analyst at Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo, said. “They may even need to review their production process. Even if the problem is with the suppliers, Toyota should be responsible for it.”
A strong yen added to the drag as Toyota shares fell 3.1 percent in Tokyo after the announcement, weighing on the benchmark Topix index, which declined 2.1 percent.
Though details were not available for precise calculations, Endo estimated the recall could cost Toyota ¥10 000 (R1 020) a vehicle, or between ¥60 billion and ¥70bn in total.
The company said the recalls involved 6.39 million vehicles, some of which were being called back for more than one issue, pushing the total to 6.76 million.
The car maker recalled 7.43 million vehicles in October 2012 to fix power window switches on models including Camrys and Corollas.
In the US last month Toyota admitted to wrongdoing and agreed to reviews by an independent monitor who is assessing its safety reporting practices as part of a $1.2bn (R12bn) settlement, the US’s largest criminal penalty imposed on a vehicle maker.
Scrutiny of safety practices in the industry is rising as US regulators investigate General Motors (GM) for its handling of ignition switch flaws, which the company knew of as far back as 2001. GM has linked the flaw to at least 13 deaths.
Legislators drew parallels last week to Toyota’s unintended acceleration recalls as they pressed GM chief executive Mary Barra on that company’s handling of the matter. GM is being fined $7 000 a day for failing to fully answer questions about the flawed part.
In yesterday’s Toyota recall, about 3.5 million vehicles are being called back to replace spiral cables that may prevent airbags on the driver’s side from deploying. Recalls include RAV4, Corolla, Yaris, Highlander, Tacoma and Camry models produced between April 2004 and December 2010.
Another 2.3 million vehicles are being called back to inspect and replace the front seat rails of three-door models. Springs that locked these rails might break if the seats were frequently adjusted, it said. This could lead to seats that moved in the event of a crash.
The models involved were built from January 2005 to August 2010 and are the Scion xD, Urban Cruiser and Yaris.
Toyota will also fix noisy and potentially unstable steering column brackets on about 760 000 vehicles globally.
The other campaigns are to replace windshield wiper motors and engine starters in vehicles in Japan and Hong Kong.
This is Toyota’s second major global recall this year. In February a recall of 1.9 million Prius hybrids covered more than half of the models sold since its debut 17 years ago.
But this has not slowed Toyota’s earnings. The company has forecast profit for the year to March 31 at a record ¥1.9 trillion and has a target of selling an unprecedented 10.32 million vehicles this year. – Bloomberg