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Toyota recalls approach 10 million vehicles

Another one: Toyota has recalled its Lexus GX460 in the US after claims of handling problems.

Lexus GX460 and Toyota Sienna recalled as Toyota agrees to pay $18 million US fine

Toyota logo20 Apr 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

TOYOTA Motor Corporation (TMC) has recalled about 9400 examples of its 2010 model-year Lexus GX460 in North America on Monday (April 19) – the same day it announced it will pay a $16.4 million ($A17.7m) fine for its belated recall to fix sticky throttles in millions of vehicles globally.

Combined with the voluntary safety recall on Friday (April 16) of more than 600,000 first and second-generation Sienna 2WD people-movers in the US and a further 270,000 Siennas in Canada, the Lexus recall brings the total number of Toyota vehicles recalled since late last year to about 9.3 million.

The recall of certain MY1998-2010 versions of the Sienna MPV, which isn’t sold in Australia, relates to the potential for spare wheel carrier cables to corrode and fail in cold climate areas with high road salt.

“In the worst case, the carrier cable may fail and the spare tyre could become separated from the vehicle, a road hazard for following vehicles that increases the likelihood of a crash,” said Toyota Motor Sales USA, which advised customers to bring their vehicle to a dealership for a preliminary inspection while it works on a fix for the problem.

This week’s recall of the 2010 Lexus GX460, which is closely related to Australia’s top-selling SUV, the Toyota Prado, follows a “do not buy” notice announced for the model last week by influential US website Consumer Reports, which said the GX failed its throttle lift-off test because its electronic stability control system did not intervene early enough.

 center image Left: Lexus GX460. Below: Toyota Sienna.

Acting with hitherto unseen vigour, Toyota immediately suspended sales and then production of the luxury SUV in Japan, before commencing “vigorous testing to identify and correct the issue”.

Acting with new-found vigour, the world’s biggest car-maker has now recalled the GX460 and says it will continue to provide a courtesy vehicle to customers of all affected vehicles until the recall work has been completed.

“Today, I’m happy to announce that we have developed a remedy that will be quickly implemented to help address customer concerns,” said Lexus Group vice-president and general manager Mark Templin.

“We will be voluntarily recalling all 2010 GX 460s that have been sold in order to update the Vehicle Stability Control system. We will begin implementing this program in the next two weeks and our dealers will be reaching out to customers shortly to set up appointments to make this modification.”

In the wake of the Consumer Reports finding, Toyota also said it would test the effectiveness of the ESC systems in all of its SUVs globally, including models sold in Australia such as the LandCruiser, Prado, Kluger and RAV4.

Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen told GoAuto last week the issue with the GX, which unlike the Prado employs a V8 engine, was specific to the US market, despite the fact it is built on the same platform in the same factory as Australia’s Prado.

“We obviously don’t sell that model here, so it doesn’t affect us,” Mr Breen said.

“From what I understand, the article went to great lengths to explain that the (Toyota) 4Runner that they sell in the United States with the V6 engine is based on the Prado platform as well and there are no issues with the V6 4Runner there, so there are no issues with the Prado here.”

Separately on Friday, Toyota also recalled 4774 “tray-type” floor mats in Canada on some 2007-10 Tundra pick-ups and 2008-10 Highlander SUVs – sold here as the Kluger.

Lexus said all of its US dealers would receive the new ESC calibration by the end of April and, from May, will encourage all owners to bring their vehicles in at their earliest convenience for the no-cost software update, which it said would take about an hour.

“From the moment we heard about this issue, Lexus and our dealers acted quickly to resolve the situation,” said Mr Templin.

“Our dealers will now personally reach out to customers to set up appointments to make this modification. Lexus has always been about providing exemplary customer satisfaction and this will be another opportunity to demonstrate that.”

On the same day, TMC announced it has agreed to settle the civil penalty demanded in the April 5 letter from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) relating to the company’s unprecedented sticky-throttle recall.

“We agreed to this settlement in order to avoid a protracted dispute and possible litigation, as well as to allow us to move forward fully-focused on the steps to strengthen our quality assurance operations,” said TMC in a statement.

“This will allow us to focus on delivering safe, reliable, high quality vehicles for our customers and responding to consumer feedback with honesty and integrity. These have been core Toyota values for 70 years, and we pledge to make an even greater effort to adhere to this philosophy now and in the future.

“We also welcome a new, more transparent chapter in our relationship with NHTSA, consistent with our commitments to Congress and the American people.”

However, while it has agreed to pay the unprecedented $17.7 million penalty handed down by the NHTSA, Toyota denies accusations by the peak US transport safety body that it knowingly concealed safety defects.

“We regret that NHTSA tentatively concluded that they should seek a civil penalty,” it said. “Toyota denies NHTSA’s allegation that it violated the Safety Act or its implementing regulations.

“We believe we made a good faith effort to investigate this condition and develop an appropriate counter-measure. We have acknowledged that we could have done a better job of sharing relevant information within our global operations and outside the company, but we did not try to hide a defect to avoid dealing with a safety problem.”

Meantime, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman has asked Toyota for unintended acceleration documents to be tabled in a hearing his panel will hold on potential electronic causes on May 6.

Mr Waxman has asked Toyota US sales chief Jim Lentz to testify at next month’s hearing, which follows House and Senate committee inquests in February and March.

A letter from Mr Waxman to Mr Lentz on Friday said the federal committee wants to know more about Toyota's work with engineering and research firm Exponent Inc, which helped Toyota repudiate the assertions of a Southern Illinois University professor, David Gilbert, about flaws in its electronic controls at a committee hearing on February 23 and in a subsequent ABC News broadcast.

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