Toyota to recall Sienna minivans for brake risk

DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp 7203.TTM.N said on Monday it would recall about 110,000 of the 2011 Sienna minivans due to a risk that drivers could damage the brake system as they use the parking brake.

The Sienna is an all-new model.

Toyota said it was not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this issue, and that it would notify owners in January of the problem.

But the fix will be delayed until replacement parts are available in February, Toyota said, when it will ask owners to bring the minivans to dealers for installation of new parts.

Toyota said that in some cases drivers had damaged a bracket connected to the brake lights by pressing on the parking brake. That could cause the brake lights to stay on, or in some cases cause the vehicle’s regular brake to be partially engaged at all times, causing noise and vibration.

If the condition goes unrepaired, Sienna drivers could experience minimized braking power, Toyota said.

Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said the automaker had fixed the problem with a differently designed part on Sienna models made after November 5.

The recall covers about 94,000 vehicles in the United States, 12,000 sold in Canada and 5,000 in Mexico, Lyons said.

The recall is the latest in a string of safety actions that have affected Toyota’s once industry-leading reputation for quality in the North American market.

So far this year, Toyota has recalled about 6.75 million vehicles for a range of problems, including with accelerators and brakes on top-selling models like the Camry and Prius.

U.S. Transportation Department safety investigators are looking at whether unintended acceleration complaints are linked to any glitch in electronic throttles in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. A preliminary finding is not expected until early 2011, government officials said.

A study released on Monday by Kelley Blue Book found that 25 percent of new car buyers considered Toyota in the third quarter. Toyota was tops in that study, closely followed by Ford Motor Co F.N and Honda Motor Co Ltd 7267.T.

KBB said the results showed Toyota was “slowly recovering from its public-perception crisis.”

Separately, Toyota has told its U.S. dealers it would extend warranty terms on more than 99,000 Lexus sedans to resolve a class-action lawsuit related to airbags on the 2007 model ES350.

The repair campaign is part of a settlement of a 3-year-old lawsuit filed in Florida that had claimed small adults sitting in the passenger seat of the cars might not be detected by the computer used to control airbags.

The lawsuit had claimed that people weighing 100 to 120 pounds might not be detected as passengers, depending on how they were sitting.

In a notice to dealers sent on Friday, Toyota said it stood by the Lexus product and that the vehicles complied with U.S. government-imposed safety standards.

Owners of the 2007 Lexus ES350 received a notice in the mail in September or October telling them they were eligible to have the computer controlling the passenger airbags replaced or fixed at a Lexus dealership under terms of the then-proposed class-action settlement.

In its notice to dealers, which was sent on Friday, Toyota said it would pay for the inspections and repair under new warranty terms that took effect on Saturday.

A copy of the notice was obtained by Reuters.

Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki in Detroit and John Crawley in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang