Toyota recalls 6.4 million vehicles worldwide over air bags, seat rails, steering or wipers


A view of the service center at Bay Ridge Toyota in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 09 April 2014. Toyota Motor Corp is recalling about 6.39 million vehicles worldwide over a possible defect of its steering, spiral cable and other components, the carmaker said on 09 April. (Andrew Gombert/European Pressphoto Agency)

Toyota announced a massive set of recalls Wednesday to address a series of problems, including a faulty cable that could prevent air bags from deploying and a defect that could prevent car seats from remaining in place during an accident.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, said it is not aware of any crashes, injuries or deaths caused by the problems.

The largest recall involves 3.5 million vehicles equipped with a spiral cable that can be damaged when the steering wheel turns. The frayed cable could cause a warning lamp to illuminate and a car’s air bag to deactivate.

Another recall is aimed at repairing seat rails that contain springs that could break, particularly when seats are frequently adjusted. When the springs break, the seat will not lock into place and can move in the event of a crash, increasing the risk of injury, the company said.

A third recall is aimed at fixing steering column brackets installed in certain European and Asian models that can become unstable when the steering wheel is repeatedly turned with maximum force.

The others are to address problematic windshield-wiper motors and the possibility of fires in starter motors. Those problems are confined to models sold in Asia, Toyota has said.

The five recalls cover 6.39 million vehicles worldwide. The air bag problem affects 1.3 million vehicles in the United States. They include the 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Tacoma, 2006-2008 RAV4 and 2006-2010 Yaris models.

The recalls come as automakers are under increasing pressure in the United States to move more quickly to correct possible defects and to inform regulators and the public about possible safety problems.

General Motors is under investigation by Congress, federal regulators and federal prosecutors over its slow recall of 2.6 million small cars equipped with faulty ignition switches. The defect, which GM dealers began fixing this week, has been linked by the company to 13 deaths. Company officials acknowledge that GM first learned about the problem at least a decade ago but did not issue a recall — a decision that new chief executive Mary T. Barra has said she is trying to understand through an internal investigation.

Last month, Toyota agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine to the federal government for misleading consumers and regulators about unintended acceleration in its cars and trucks. The problem, which was traced to problematic floor mats and sticky gas pedals, prompted the company to recall more than 9 million vehicles.

Michael A. Fletcher is a national economics correspondent, writing about unemployment, state and municipal debt, the evolving job market and the auto industry.
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