The Toyota Motor Company announced a global recall of 1.53 million vehicles on Thursday because of brake and fuel pump problems, but stressed that the repairs reflected a companywide effort to be more active in addressing potential flaws.
Toyota, via Associated Press
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, will call back about 750,000 cars in North America, including Lexus and Avalon models, and 599,000 cars in Japan. The recalled models were mostly made from 2004 to 2006, a period of rapid growth for Toyota that analysts have charged coincided with lapses in the automaker’s attention to quality.
About 140,000 cars in the rest of Asia and Australia, and 50,000 cars in Europe, also are being recalled.
Quality at Toyota has been under the spotlight since the automaker recalled about 8.5 million cars and trucks worldwide over a range of problems, including gas pedals that could jam or get stuck under floor mats, causing vehicles to speed out of control. The size of the earlier recalls, as well as Toyota’s slow handling of recall procedures, was widely criticized by United States policy makers and set off a series of Congressional hearings.
The president of the company, Akio Toyoda, subsequently promised to improve quality and customer service, including paying more attention to customer complaints and speeding up recall decisions. In February, the automaker set up a special global committee to oversee quality, led by Mr. Toyoda.
“Every time we announce a recall, that is a step toward increasing quality,” a spokesman for Toyota in Tokyo, Paul Nolasco, said Thursday. The pedal-related recalls had “brought it home to Toyota that we need to refocus on quality,” he said.
Most of the vehicles in Thursday’s recall need to be fixed for a problem in the brakes’ master cylinder, Mr. Nolasco said. The cylinder, which contains brake fluid, could leak if filled with a third-party fluid, causing a loss in braking power, he said.
Toyota has also found an electrical fault with the fuel pump that could cause the engine to stall, Mr. Nolasco said. That defect was concentrated in models sold in Japan.
The automaker is not aware of any accidents linked to these problems, he said.
Analysts said Toyota was eager to appear more forthcoming about potential defects.
“The nature of the recall — the items they had problems with — are fairly mundane,” said Paul Newton, a London-based auto analyst at IHS Global Insight, a global research firm.
“They are trying to demonstrate to everybody that they’re on top of this,” Mr. Newton said. “They are trying to demonstrate that they’re more transparent.”
Mike Rozembajgier, director of recalls for ExpertRecall, a consulting firm that helps manufacturers conduct product recalls, said he expected to see other automakers also become more eager to call back their vehicles to avoid any accusations of delays or cover-ups.
“We have seen Toyota and the entire automotive industry become more proactive in addressing potential problems,” Mr. Rozembajgier said. “Toyota specifically announced new product quality initiatives and is now taking additional steps to ensure that their recalls are effective and that they are seen as protecting consumers.”
Owners will be notified by mailings beginning early next month, and dealers will replace part of the brake’s master cylinder free of charge, Toyota said.
Toyota is still racing to fix cars affected by its gas pedal and floor mat recalls, the first of which was announced last November.
Earlier this month, Toyota said its dealers had repaired 3.7 million of the six million vehicles affected in the United States in those recalls, or about 65 percent of the total. In April, Toyota agreed to pay a record $16.4 million fine to United States regulators for waiting too long to initiate a recall after learning that its accelerator pedals contained a defect.