Tag Archive | "Toyota Motor Corp."

Toyota Recalls 412,000 Cars in U.S., Mostly Avalons

WASHINGTON – Toyota Motor Corp. announced it would recall 412,000 vehicles today for steering issues — in its 13 and 14th recall campaigns of 2010, The Detroit News reported.

The new recalls mean Toyota has recalled more than 5 million vehicles in 2010 in the United States — and the company has surpassed the 4.8 million vehicles it recalled in 2009.

The new recalls includes 373,000 2000-2004 Toyota Avalon models to address concerns the vehicle’s steering lock bar could break under certain conditions.

The company said it first received a report in Japan of possible problems in October 2007 — and another report in December 2008 in the United States. “Toyota believed that this was another isolated case,” the company told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Toyota also said it will recall 39,000 2003-2007 Lexus LX 470 vehicles to address a steering shaft issue.
The company first received a field report from Germany in October 2009, which said the issue had been seen on three vehicles — at least two with high mileage. Another report of the problem from Japan received in January suggested it may have been caused due to driving under harsh conditions.

Toyota has come under a torrent of criticism in the wake of its recall of more than 8.5 million vehicles worldwide for sudden acceleration issues. It paid a $16.4 million fine to the government for delaying a recall of 2.3 million vehicles by at least four months and is a subject of a federal criminal investigation over its handling of recalls.

The new Toyota recall is to address concerns that after a severe impact to the front wheels — like striking a deep pothole — that it could disengage the steering shaft. Toyota will install a newly designed snap ring and another component to prevent separation of the steering shaft.

“Toyota is continuing to work diligently to address safety issues wherever they arise and to strengthen our global quality assurance operations so that Toyota owners can be confident in the safety of their vehicles,” said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota chief quality officer for North America.

Toyota will replace the steering column bracket — a procedure that will take about two hours. Owners will get notified starting in late August.

Lexus owners will get notified in mid-August.

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Toyota Poised for $1.1B Q2 Profit as Recall Crisis Ebbs, Report Says

TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp. will likely post a group operating profit of about 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) for the April-June period thanks to solid sales, the Nikkei business daily reported.

But the automaker, which had a loss of 194.8 billion yen in the same period last year, is likely to keep its annual profit forecast unchanged because of uncertainty over the European and U.S. economies, the Sunday report also said, without citing sources, according to Reuters.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, has been plagued since last September by a crisis over safety issues that have led to the recall of more than 10 million vehicles globally.

Toyota and rival Honda Motor Co. have also been hit by strikes in the past few months at Chinese plants providing parts. Both makers suspended production in China to varying degrees due to supply shortages caused by strikes.

But strong sales in emerging or resource-rich countries, such as in the Middle East, helped Toyota shake off negative factors, including a stronger yen.

Toyota also saw strong sales of its Prius hybrid model in Japan, the Nikkei report said.

In the three months to June, the Toyota Group — including Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co. — sold between 1.8 million and 1.9 million vehicles, about 30 percent more than a year earlier, the report said.

Toyota’s sales are also picking up in North America after being hurt by the recalls, the paper said.

The automaker’s sales could lose some steam later in the year, however, as the Japanese government ends subsidies on purchasing so-called eco cars in September, the Nikkei said.

Toyota officials were not immediately available for comment.

Toyota projects an operating profit of 280 billion yen for the current fiscal year to March, up 90 percent from the previous year.

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Congressmen Press for Toyota Crash Data

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration came under pressure Wednesday to disclose more information about its investigation of Toyota Motor Corp., with congressional Republicans questioning whether officials are withholding data that could favor Toyota in some crashes, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter to the administration’s top auto-safety regulator pressing for a detailed update on the government’s inquiry into Toyota crashes linked to sudden acceleration.

Barton sought information about crash data that, according to a Wall Street Journal article published last week, indicate in dozens of crashes, the driver was jamming on the gas pedal instead of the brakes, suggesting driver error.

The Journal cited people familiar with the crash-data test results. The Transportation Department, which has been examining the data, has declined to comment on the article.

The letter to David Strickland, head of the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was also signed by Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Ed Whitfield (R., Ky.) and Michael Burgess (R., Texas).

“It is important for us to know whether NHTSA has EDR data showing that some incidents of reported sudden unintended acceleration were the result of pedal misapplication,” the congressmen wrote in the letter. EDR stands for event-data recorders, also known as “black boxes,” that are embedded in cars and record crash information.

Spokeswomen for Strickland and the Transportation Department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The Republican lawmakers pointed out in the letter that the House is expected to vote soon on a far-reaching vehicle-safety bill that responds to the Toyota recalls. The legislation would mandate certain safety features in vehicles, increase the maximum amount that car makers could be fined for safety lapses and require public disclosure of vehicle-design information.

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Toyota Subpoenaed by Federal Grand Jury

TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp. said it has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in New York to submit documents related to problems with rods that connect a vehicle’s steering system to its front wheels, reported The Associated Press.

The world’s largest automaker, which is trying to repair a reputation damaged by recalls of millions of cars worldwide since October, said the federal grand jury issued the subpoena to its U.S. subsidiary in late June.

Toyota said it was the company’s second subpoena from a federal grand jury — a panel that can determine whether evidence exists to bring criminal charges.

“The company and its subsidiary are sincerely cooperating with authorities on the probe,” Toyota said in a statement.

Defective steering relay rods led Toyota to recall 4Runner sports utility vehicles and T100 pickup trucks in the United States in 2005.

Toyota said the grand jury’s subpoena did not specify vehicle models and it was not clear that the subpoena was linked to the 2005 recall, which came several years before safety lapses erupted into a global recall crisis late last year.

The automaker has recalled more than 8.5 million vehicles worldwide since October, including 6 million in the U.S. alone, to address the possibility of unintended acceleration and to fix a braking problem in its Prius hybrid.

In February, Toyota was subpoenaed by a U.S. federal grand jury seeking documents related to unintended acceleration in its vehicles and the braking system of its Prius hybrid.

Earlier this year, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox also asked Toyota to submit information on the recent U.S. recalls, Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said. She declined to elaborate.

Toyota paid a record $16.4 million fine for being slow to recall vehicles with an accelerator pedal problem and is facing hundreds of state and federal lawsuits. Congress is considering an upgrade to auto safety laws in the aftermath of the Toyota recalls that began in October.

In Tokyo, Toyota shares fell 2.6 percent Tuesday to close at 3,055 yen before the subpoena announcement was made.

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Toyota Complaints Fall as U.S. Reviews Intensify

WASHINGTON – Complaints to U.S. regulators of unintended acceleration in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles are down sharply as separate government and expert reviews of the matter move forward, Reuters reported.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents made available to a National Academies of Science panel examining vehicle electronics as a possible cause of unwanted acceleration industrywide illustrate volatile complaint trends for Toyota and other automakers.

The quality of Toyota’s cars — once a benchmark for the industry — has come under scrutiny since the world’s top automaker recalled about 10.8 million vehicles globally since late last year, mostly for problems of unintended acceleration.

Reduced complaints for Toyota this summer, which regulators believe is partly due to ebbing publicity, do not alone substantiate the automaker’s contention that its electronic systems are sound. But the drop could be an indicator that fixes for millions of recalled vehicles worldwide for mechanical and equipment problems linked to unwanted acceleration are working.

“We do feel our remedies have been effective,” spokeswoman Cindy Knight said.

Regulators, who review each complaint, say complaints generally fall off when publicity eases even though Toyota has recalled thousands of other vehicles this year for other problems — including braking on its signature Prius hybrid.

The unintended acceleration recalls in October 2009 and in January at the core of Toyota’s safety crisis involved floor mats that could jam the accelerator pedal and pedals that did not spring back as designed.

Since 2000, electronic throttle control was cited in complaints associated with 52 Toyota crashes that reportedly killed 62 people, according to NHTSA’s most recent figures. Regulators are reviewing complaints alleging 31 additional deaths unrelated to electronic throttle complaints.

Toyota is due to file an update soon with NHTSA on vehicles serviced under the big recalls, which regulators analyze to see if remedies are successful. The floor mat and “sticky pedal” recalls required design changes or replacement products.

Toyota has so far made repairs and other fixes on 1.7 million vehicles, or 78 percent of the recalled number, for “sticky pedals,” and nearly 40 percent, or 2 million, of models recalled for loose floor mats, it said. Certain Tundra pickups and Avalon and Camry sedans had both problems.

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Toyota Educates Customers as Floor Mat Alert Ignored

Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. sales chief said many owners still ignore warnings not to stack floor mats beneath accelerator pedals and wants dealers to familiarize buyers with model features so they’re not mistaken for flaws, Bloomberg reported.

The world’s largest automaker has discussed unintended acceleration concerns with as many as 7,000 owners in the months following record vehicle recalls for floor mats that could slip, jamming accelerators, and for sticky gas pedals, said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota’s U.S. unit. In some cases, people weren’t familiar with how automatic cruise control worked, didn’t know air-conditioners could boost engine revving or failed to remove extra mats, he said in an interviewyesterday.

“A large number, I don’t know the exact result, but I’m going to peg it at 15 percent, of vehicles we’re seeing have multiple numbers of stacked floor mats, even now,” Lentz said. “Six months ago we talked to customers about taking the floor mat out, and six months later it’s still there.”

Toyota recalled more than 8 million autos worldwide in the 11 months since an off-duty California Highway Patrol officerand his family were killed in August 2009 when the Lexus ES350 sedan he was driving sped out of control near San Diego. Reviews by Toyota and government investigators pinned the cause to a gas pedal trapped by the floor mat, leading to a September 2009 warning that owners should remove driver’s side mats.

Subsequent recalls and four congressional hearings hurt the Toyota City, Japan-based company’s reputation as a leader in vehicle quality.

“There’s no question it hit bottom,” Lentz said. Still, in the past 90 days, surveys conducted by Toyota of how consumers view its quality show “a fairly strong recovery,” particularly among repeat Toyota buyers, he said.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts, equal to two ordinary shares, fell $1.65, or 2.3 percent, to $70.75 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. They’ve declined 16 percent this year. Toyota shares fell 1.3 percent to 3,135 yen today in Tokyo.

“Toyota’s priority is to regain customers’ trust and satisfy them with how they are handling safety,” said Tadashi Usui, an analyst at Moody’s K.K. in Tokyo. “Educating customers is one reasonable way to achieve that, but it may be difficult to bring home the message.”

Rather than running through all features immediately after the sale of a vehicle or expecting customers to read the owner’s manual, Toyota wants dealers to be more flexible, Lentz said. This includes making more information available on an owner website and arranging follow-up training sessions at dealerships around a customer’s schedule, he said.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda has pledged a comprehensive overhaul of quality control steps.

“Even if the customer makes a mistake, we never want to blame the customer,” Toyoda told reporters last week in Nagoya, Japan. “If they make some error, it should not lead to any fatal accident. That’s our ultimate goal.”

The company this week said that in accidents involving unintended acceleration where motorists said they’d pressed the brake pedal, in “virtually all” cases drivers pushed the accelerator instead, based on reviews of data collected by vehicle computers.

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