TOKYO/DETROIT (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp said on Thursday it would recall 1.66 million Avalons, Highlanders and other vehicles, bringing its total for worldwide recalls in the past year to about 14 million.
Most of the 1.66 million recalls announced on Thursday are in Japan and the United States, Toyota’s top market, in the latest blow to the reputation of a company once considered the gold standard of reliability.
While there are three separate issues involved in the latest recalls, most involve a master cylinder brake seal.
No accidents have been reported from the three defects, Toyota said.
The announcement comes less than two months after a recall in the United States and Canada of 1.3 million Corolla and Matrix cars carrying defective engine control modules that could cause the vehicles to stall.
Of the nearly 14 million global recalls since last November, 11 million have been in the United States, where Toyota’s worst safety crisis has attracted intense scrutiny from safety regulators.
“Toyota has still not fully recovered from the damage done to its brand recently,” said Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell.
“We don’t consider a recall a four-letter word,” said Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons. “We see it as representative of our commitment to our customers. We want to do everything we can to help restore confidence in our brand and with our customers and their vehicles.”
Toyota said it would recall 740,000 Avalon, Highlander, Lexus GS300, IS250 and IS350 cars in the United States to replace a brake master cylinder seal because there was a possibility that some brake fluid could leak from the cylinder.
Cars affected are those that have had factory-filled brake fluid replaced with brake fluid that is not “genuine” factory fluid, Toyota said.
Toyota said that if drivers notice the brake warning lamp illuminated, the vehicles should be brought in for repair immediately, without waiting for a notice, which will be sent in a few weeks.
In Japan, Toyota is recalling about 600,000 vehicles spanning 11 models including the high-end Crown sedan, either for the master cylinder seal or defective fuel pump wiring or both. It is recalling 60,000 vehicles in China.
Toyota will decide whether to file an official recall in other markets in line with safety regulations in each market, Tokyo-based spokesman Paul Nolasco said.
The brake master cylinder seal or defective fuel pump wiring affect 1.53 million vehicles worldwide.
Toyota said it was also recalling 134,000 Crown and Reiz sedans in China to fix a faulty component in the rear disk brakes that could rust and affect braking performance.
Toyota does not disclose estimates for recall costs, and had no comment on whether the repairs would have any impact on its earnings.
A note to U.S. dealers from Toyota said the repair will take two hours. Based on information provided by dealers, it would cost about $130 million in labor costs in the United States if every vehicle is brought in for repairs.
Toyota changed the rubber compound used to make the brake master cylinder seal to make it compatible with other models it produces. Once that was done, from 2003 to 2006 depending on the model, the seals are more tolerant of a wider range of brake fluids and Toyota does not expect further problems.
The production dates are shown on a sticker on the driver’s side door opening in all Toyota and Lexus vehicles worldwide.
Production dates for affected vehicles, are, for Toyota models Avalon September 2004 to February 2006; Highlander May 2003 to November 2005; Crown November 2004 to January 2006; Toyota Reiz October 2005 to January 2006; Alphard December 2003 to November 2005; and Lexus models GS September 2004 to February 2006, IS May 2005 to March 2006, and RX February 2003 to February 2006.
Toyota has blamed at least part of the quality slip over the past year on its rapid expansion during the past decade, when it overtook General Motors Co as the world’s top-selling automaker.
GM had its share of big recalls this year. In March, it announced a recall of 1.3 million compact cars, and another one three months later for 1.5 million trucks and cars.
Toyota’s shares, which have become largely immune to recall news, ended trading in Tokyo up 0.4 percent at 2,900 yen in Tokyo. Other Japanese automakers’ shares and the broader market fell on Thursday.
Toyota traded on the New York Stock Exchange closed down 7 cents at $71.62 on Thursday.
Editing by David Cowell, Phil Berlowitz
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