Toyota Issues One Of The Biggest Car Recalls In History: 6.4 million Worldwide And 297,000 In Australia

Toyota has recalled 6.39 million cars globally. Image: Shutterstock.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest carmaker, called back more than 6 million vehicles to fix a range of safety defects in one of the biggest recalls in automotive history.

The company found five types of safety hazards in vehicles including some of its top sellers such as the Camry sedan, RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Corolla cars, Toyota said in a statement today. The carmaker isn’t aware of any injuries or fatalities linked to the defects, it said.

Vehicles being recalled in Australia include 179,000 current generation Hilux vehicles built between April 2004 and December 2009, as well as 118,600 previous generation Yaris 3 and 5-door hatchbacks and Yaris sedan vehicles built between June 2005 and May 2010.

The recall, Toyota’s second-biggest since late 2012, is a setback for President Akio Toyoda, who took years to restore the company’s reputation for quality after the millions of vehicles called back in 2009-2010 because of unintended acceleration. The move comes as General Motors Co. is being scrutinised in the U.S. for its handling of deadly ignition- switch flaws that the company knew of as far back as 2001.

“Something is wrong,” Koji Endo,an analyst at Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo, said by telephone. “They may even need to review their production process. Even if the problem is with the suppliers, Toyota should be responsible for it.”

Though details weren’t available for precise calculations, Endo estimated that the recall could cost Toyota 60 billion yen ($US588 million) to 70 billion yen, or 10,000 yen per vehicle.

Toyota fell 3.1 percent to close at 5,450 yen in Tokyo after the announcement, dragging down the benchmark Topix index, which declined 2.1 percent.

Big Recall

The recalls involve 6.39 million vehicles, some of which are being called back for more than one problem, pushing the total tally to 6.76 million, the company said. The Toyota City, Japan-based carmaker recalled 7.43 million vehicles in October 2012.

Toyota Australia says the latest recall is a preventative measure only.

Toyota last month admitted to wrongdoing and agreed to reviews by an independent monitor that is assessing its safety reporting practices as part of an agreement to a $1.2 billion settlement, the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on an automaker in the U.S. Toyoda has pledged to improve the company’s recall process after calling back more than 10 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010 for problems related to sudden acceleration.

Regulators in the U.S. have drawn parallels to Toyota’s sudden-acceleration recalls to GM’s handling of flawed ignition switches that’s been linked to at least 13 deaths.

Spiral Cables

In today’s recall, about 3.5 million of the vehicles — with more than half in North America — are being called back to replace spiral cables that may prevent driver’s-side airbags from deploying. Models involved include RAV4, Corolla, Yaris, Highlander, Tacoma and Camry that were produced from April 2004 to December 2010.

Another 2.3 million vehicles are being called back to inspect and replace the driver- and passenger-side seat rails of three-door models. Springs that lock these rails may break if the seats are frequently adjusted back and forth, the company said.

The models with this issue, which could lead to seats that move in the event of a crash, were built from January 2005 through August 2010. The vehicles involved are Ist, Vitz, Belta and Ractis in Japan, and Scion xD, Urban Cruiser and Yaris in other markets.

Unstable Brackets

Toyota also will fix noisy and potentially unstable steering column brackets on about 760,000 vehicles in global markets. The remaining safety campaigns are to replace windshield wiper motors of about 160,000 Ractis vehicles in Japan and the engine starters of about 20,000 vehicles in Japan and Hong Kong.

Toyota has instituted a three-year freeze on new car plants to tilt the company’s priorities to quality and efficiency after the 2009-2010 recalls.

Following its crisis, Toyota said it improved procedures that had been too dependent on decision-making in Japan and didn’t give regional operations the autonomy to make fixes. The carmaker also formed a global quality group that Toyoda has chaired.

This is the second major global recall for Toyota this year. A recall of 1.9 million Prius hybrids in February covered more than half of the models sold since its debut 17 years ago. The company will update software to fix glitches that could cause them to lose power or shut down and stop.

Toyota Apology

“We sincerely apologise to our customers for the inconvenience and concern brought by this recall announcement,” it said in a statement. “Toyota has rededicated itself to strengthening its commitment to safety and quality. In part, that means refocusing on putting customers and people first, by listening better and taking appropriate action.”

Recalls haven’t slowed down earnings. Toyota has forecast profit for the year ending March 31 will surge to a record 1.9 trillion yen. The automaker has set a target of selling an unprecedented 10.32 million vehicles in 2014 after leading GM and Volkswagen AG in global auto deliveries for a second straight year in 2013.

–With assistance from Ma Jie in Tokyo.

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