The move comes just days after Toyota regained its spot as the world's No. 1 automaker from U.S. rival General Motors Co., with global vehicle sales that climbed to a record 9.748 million vehicles. The company is now recalling 907,000 cars, mostly Corollas, due to air bags that can improperly inflate when the vehicle's electronic signals damage a chip in the part that controls the air bags. It also is recalling 385,000 Lexus IS luxury cars with wipers that can get stuck if there is heavy snowfall.
Initially, the Japanese automaker had said there were no accidents related to either problem, but Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Naoto Fuse said Wednesday that two crashes were reported in the U.S. related to the air bag problem. Toyota had not been able to confirm them and Fuse said it is unclear whether anyone was injured in the two crashes. Toyota has confirmed 18 cases in the U.S. of abrasion-type injuries from the air bag problem, he said. In total, the automaker has received 46 reports of problems involving the air bags from North America, and one from Japan, and 25 reports of problems related to the windshield wipers.
As part of the air bag recall, Toyota is recalling some 752,000 Corolla and Corolla Matrix cars in the U.S., about 141,000 vehicles in Canada and thousands of similar vehicles in Japan and Mexico that were manufactured between December 2001 and May 2004. The part will be corrected to be able to block damaging signals, said Fuse.
The problem wipers affect three kinds of Lexus IS models, manufactured from May 2005 to October 2011, including 270,000 vehicles in the U.S. and nearly 17,000 vehicles in Canada. The recall also affects the Lexus IS sold in Europe, the Middle East and China, Toyota said.
Toyota's reputation for top quality has been undermined in the past few years by massive recalls for a spate of problems, including bad brakes, gas pedals and floor mats, mostly in the U.S. Executives have repeatedly promised to beef up quality controls and be quicker with recalls to repair Toyota's image. Toyota has announced some recalls in recent months, but they have been relatively minor, such as floor mats, and generally affect vehicles manufactured before its latest efforts to regain sterling quality.
Last month, Toyota agreed to pay more than $1 billion in the U.S. to settle lawsuits where vehicle owners said the value of their cars and SUVs plummeted after the company recalled millions of vehicles because of sudden-acceleration issues. Executives say they are not admitting fault. But they acknowledge the company is eager to put the recall crisis behind it.
Toyota's production was hit by the quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan in 2011, where key suppliers were located, but it has since recovered, seeing sales grow not only in the U.S. but also in Asia.
Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at www.twitter.com/yurikageyama
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