3 Min Read
* V6 Camry, Avalon, Rav4, Lexus vehicles involved
* Oil hose may develop a hole, potentially causing leak
* 'Limited service campaign,' not safety recall - Toyota (Adds details, background safety crisis, analyst comments)
By Soyoung Kim and Bernie Woodall
DETROIT, March 1 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) will replace an oil hose in some 933,800 vehicles in the United States due to the risk of a potential leak that could damage the engine if left untreated, the automaker said on Monday.
On some Camry, Avalon, Rav4 and Lexus vehicles equipped with V6 engines, the rubber portion of the engine oil hose may develop a small hole, potentially causing oil leakage and engine failure, Toyota said in a document sent to U.S. dealers and obtained by Reuters on Monday.
Owners of the vehicles can have the oil hose replaced with a newly designed one at Toyota dealerships at no charge until March 31, 2013. The work will take about an hour.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons confirmed the company had sent the document on a "limited service campaign" to U.S. dealers. He added that the oil hose issue is not a safety issue and the vehicles are not being recalled.
Safety issues have already forced Toyota, the world's top automaker, to recall more than 8.5 million vehicles worldwide.
Toyota global quality control chief Shinichi Sasaki and North American President Yoshimi Inaba are scheduled to appear before a Senate committee on Tuesday for a third hearing on its handling of consumer complaints about sudden acceleration.
The oil hose service campaign covers 2007-2010 model year Camry, 2005-2009 Avalon, 2006-2009 Rav4, 2007-2008 Lexus ES 350 and 2007-2009 RX 350 vehicles.
Toyota is also investigating whether the same condition may affect other Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the document showed.
Lyons said a leak would likely be noticed by drivers as the condition may cause abnormal engine noise or cause the oil pressure light to illuminate.
Lyons said he was not sure when Toyota first noticed the problem of degrading oil hoses, but said it has adjusted production so vehicles on assembly lines do not have the problem.
Toyota has notified the U.S. National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration of its call to dealers and consumers to service the vehicles.
Aaron Bragman, auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, said the oil hose issue is not nearly as significant as safety recalls involving unintended acceleration.
Still, Bragman said, the latest service campaign won't help Toyota's current efforts to protect its reputation for quality.
Since the last week of January when Toyota called on dealers to stop sales of more than half of its U.S. inventory, the automaker's sales have slumped. They were down 16 percent in January.
Toyota will announce February sales on Tuesday, and is expected to show a deeper decline. [ID:nN26177297] (Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Bernie Woodall, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Gary Hill)