Toyota Motor said Wednesday it will recall 1.7 million vehicles worldwide over concerns about possible fuel leakages, in the latest setback for the troubled Japanese auto giant.
The move will see the world’s largest automaker pull 1.28 million vehicles in Japan and 421,000 overseas, Toyota and the Japanese transport ministry said.
Analysts say the carmaker now faces further pressure in its battle to regain consumer trust overseas after a crisis involving millions of recalls, a wave of lawsuits and record fines. Its shares tumbled 1.87 percent in Tokyo Wednesday.
Defective parts prompting the latest recalls include engine fuel pipes that may crack and leak, and faulty pressure sensors connected to engine fuel delivery pipes.
“Slight cracks may appear on the engine fuel pipes. If it continues to be used, the crack may be widened and there may be risks of fuel leakage,” Japan’s transport ministry said in a statement.
The recalls include around 245,000 of Toyota’s luxury Lexus vehicles in the United States, including Lexus GS 300 and 350 models as well as the IS250 and IS350 vehicles, Toyota said.
The car giant will pull 74,590 Lexus, Crown and other cars in Japan over similar leakage fears, and around 10,000 Lexus units in Europe.
Domestically, 19 models such as Noah, Voxy, Caldina and Isis produced between 2000 and 2009 will be affected.
No accidents have been reported out of more than 140 cases, it said.
Toyota said it would begin fixing defective parts for free on Thursday in Japan and would follow recall regulations overseas. “We sincerely apologise to our customers for causing a lot of trouble,” the company said in a statement.
In 2008 Toyota ended General Motors’ 77-year reign as the world’s largest automaker but the road has been a bumpy one for the Japanese giant, facing the impact of the economic crisis, recalls and recently a strong yen.
Earlier this week, Toyota announced global sales of 8.42 million vehicles, just ahead of General Motors’ 8.39 million, confirming its position as the world’s biggest carmaker for the third year running but with GM closing in.
Previously lauded for its vehicles’ safety and reliability, a US recall of around four million vehicles in late 2009 swelled to nearly nine million units by February 2010 for brake and accelerator defects linked to some driver fatalities.
As criticism mounted of its slow response and bureaucratic inflexibility, Toyota tightened its recall policy and by November last year had pulled nearly 13 million vehicles over a range of issues.
Wednesday’s recall swells that tally further and is likely to increase pressure on the automaker as it battles to retain market share in the United States where it is losing ground to re-energised rivals such as General Motors, say analysts.
“The recall is sizeable and it may further damage Toyota’s brand image and put trust in its technology in doubt,” said Tatsuya Mizuno, auto analyst at Mizuno Credit Advisory in Tokyo.
“The timing is bad as Toyota is barely recovering from the previous massive recall.”
Mizuno also noted that with auto parts increasingly globally standardised, worldwide recalls were more likely once defects come to light.
Last month, the carmaker agreed to pay a record fine of $32.4 million in the US, following a $16.4 million penalty in April over its handling of the recalls.