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Toyota Narrowly Misses Third Year Atop Recall List

Overall, recalls down for 2011.

by on Dec.30, 2011

Toyota recalled 200,000 Sienna minivans in 2011, the third year in a row in which it topped the U.S. recall list, with 3.5 million of its vehicles impacted overall.

Editor’s Note: This story has been revised to reflect a last-minute Honda action and final federal recall numbers for 2011.

It isn’t always good to be number one, as Toyota clearly understands.  While it slipped from first to third in the global automotive sales sweepstakes when the books are closed on 2011 the Japanese giant might be more pleased that it narrowly missed having the most recalls of any automaker in the U.S. for the third year in a row.

That dubious distinction now goes to Honda, which expanded its ongoing series of airbag defect-related actions to end the year having recalled 3.8 million vehicles.  Honda closed 2011 with 15 separate campaigns compared to Toyota’s still sizable 13.

Despite the maker’s claim that it has put its quality and safety problems behind it, Toyota — and its Scion and Lexus brands — still were forced to recall 3.5 million vehicles this past year, significantly more than the third-highest manufacturer on the government’s list.  And that doesn’t include a sizable number of vehicles for which the maker issued technical service bulletins, which encouraged dealers to fix nagging problems that didn’t wind up getting tallied on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s formal recall chart.

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In all, automakers recalled 15.5 million light vehicles in 2011, according to an analysis by WardsAuto, a sharp decline from the 20 million year before when the industry – largely due to Toyota — saw callbacks jump to 17.2 million cars, trucks and crossovers.  Toyota alone had 7 million vehicles involved in its 2010 campaigns. The worst year for the auto industry was 2000 when 24.3 million vehicles were involved in safety-related recalls.


Two More Toyota Recalls: Avalon and Lexus LX 470

More than 400,000 vehicles have potentially defective steering.

by on Jul.29, 2010

Loss of steering is a serious safety issue.

The recalls just keep coming from Toyota Motor Corporation.

The company in Japan announced today that hundreds of thousands of Avalon and Lexus 470 models have steering problems.

While apparently unrelated, both defects can make steering wheel inputs from the driver worthless.

The larger safety recall is for about 373,000 2000-2004 model year Toyota Avalon sedans sold in the United States. It is possible that that the Avalon’s steering lock bar could break. If it does the steering wheel could jam while the Avalon is in motion. The problem mostly occurs when the vehicle is parked, the steering wheel is turned to be locked and the ignition key is removed, according to Toyota.

There have been six reported cases of this condition in the U.S. There are three unconfirmed minor accidents, and no injuries. About 27,000 Avalons will be recalled outside the U.S.

Safety Issues!

Toyota’s U.S. Lexus luxury division in a separate action is recalling 39,000 2003-2007 model year LX 470 sport utility vehicles to address a steering shaft problem where a snap ring can let go, rendering driver inputs to the steering wheel useless.  About 80,000  LX 470s are affected globally.


Toyota Recalls 138,000 Lexus Cars in U.S.

Engine valve springs are defective in latest snafu.

by on Jul.03, 2010

Another global recall from Toyota with half the affected Lexus cars in the U.S.

Toyota executives in Japan have directed the Lexus division of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, to prepare for a recall on 138,000 Lexus vehicles powered by 4.6- and 5.0-liter V8 engines and 3.5-liter V6 engines.

The safety related recall will cover 2006, 2007 and 2008 GS, IS and LS models sold in the U.S. This is part of a larger global recall due to Toyota quality problems, this time affecting 270,000 vehicles.

The formal defect report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be filed during the week of July 5, according to a statement released late Friday afternoon by TMS in a classic attempt to limit news coverage of the latest manufacturing quality problem.

NHTSA has imposed record fines on Toyota this year for its previous failure to report a safety related defect regarding sticking gas pedals, and recently discovered during compliance testing that the Lexus HS 250h leaks an illegal amount of fuel during a rear crash. A “stop sale” is now in place. (See Another Toyota Recall Coming on Lexus Hybrids and Toyota to Recall 270,000 Lexus Models for Stalling) Whether Lexus failed to inform NHTSA on time about this latest defect remains to be seen.

In the defective Lexus engines, a quality control failure in the manufacturing process allowed “foreign material” to contaminate a “small number of the valve springs.” If a Lexus is affected, there is the possibility that abnormal engine noise or idling may occur.

Recalls and More Recalls!

“In extremely rare instances, the engine may stop” while the Lexus is in operation, according to the statement from the U.S. sales division, which does not have the authority to order a recall, as that power resides in Japan with Japanese executives.


Another Toyota Recall on Lexus Coming Friday

Lexus sedans have faulty steering that sticks off center.

by on May.20, 2010

2010 Lexus LS 600h L

Do not turn the steering wheel too far, too fast. It might stick or slowly return to center?

Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S. will announce tomorrow that Japanese executives will order the recall of the most expensive 2010 model LS 460, 460L, LS 600h L  Lexus sedans because of defective power steering.

This latest electronic calibration or control defect is being announced as James E. Lentz, President and Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., today told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that  “Toyota’s ETCS-i (electronic engine control computer) has been subjected to comprehensive testing over more than a decade without a single unintended acceleration event. Toyota has never discovered or been provided with any evidence that the ETCS-i can cause unintended acceleration in a real world scenario.”

U.S. sales executives do not have the authority to order a recall, and previous illegal delays in fixing a known safety defect by the offshore Japanese in charge of Toyota engineering  and manufacturing resulted in a record fine of more than $16 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other Toyota safety recall delays are still under investigation at NHTSA. Both civil and criminal penalties are possible.

On the Lexus sedans in question with optional Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS), the steering wheel may stick 90-degrees off center during aggressive maneuvering. It is the latest of a growing list of quality and safety defects at the Japanese sales leader.

This safety related defect occurs after driving from a tight turn where the steering was at the end of its travel (full lock to the left or right). VGRS “automatically” corrects the steering wheel off-center condition as the vehicle is driven within one to three seconds. Toyota said, “The driver may notice this condition as the steering wheel slowly moves to the center position while driving straight during the VGRS correction.”

A trend is emerging at Toyota and other makers: The electronic controls and the computer programs that now run everything from engine speed and output, transmission shift points, electronic stability controls and antilock brakes, among other systems, are not defect free.

While this is probably not new, what has changed is increased scrutiny from NHTSA; an agency that critics say ignored numerous Toyota safety problems, but is now being more diligent.

Toyota will replace the control computer on  the affected vehicles. The problem occurred after it changed the programming on 2010 models.

Consumer Reports Rescinds Lexus “Don’t Buy”

Lexus GS 460 passes retest of electronic stability control.

by on May.07, 2010

GX 460’s handling is ultimately okay, but is “still ponderous and ungainly."

Consumer Reports revoked its “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” designation from the 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV this morning, saying that recall work corrected the problem it displayed in one of its emergency handling tests. (See Japanese Stop Sales of 2010 Lexus GX460)

CR is not really endorsing the Lexus though, continuing a recent trend of distancing itself from Toyota products after years of automatically endorsing them. CR says that with the fix, the GX 460’s handling is ultimately okay, but is “still ponderous and ungainly, as is common with traditional body-on-frame SUVs.” (See also Consumers Union Defends Role in Missing Toyota Unintended Acceleration Problems and Deaths)

CR’s testers originally experienced the problem in a test that they use to evaluate what’s known in automotive engineering  terms as trailing  throttle oversteer, which is the precursor to a spin.

In the CR test as the vehicle is driven through a turn, the driver quickly lifts her foot off the accelerator pedal. When testers did this with a GX 460, its rear end slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways.

Even though the GX 460 has electronic stability control, which is designed to prevent a vehicle from sliding, the system in CR’s view was not intervening quickly enough to stop the slide. CR says this is a safety risk because in a real-world situation this could cause a rear tire to strike a curb or slide off the pavement, possibly causing the vehicle to roll over. Tall vehicles with a high center of gravity, such as the GX 460, heighten CR’s concern. CR is not aware, however, of any reports of injury related to this problem.


Toyota Litigation Consolidated in Santa Ana

Judge James V. Selna will oversee the disposition of cases.

by on Apr.12, 2010

Hundreds of lawsuits stemming from Toyota's sudden acceleration problems could wind up bearing heard as one in a California courtroom.

A panel of judges has decided that all cases against Toyota Motor Company should be consolidated in a court close to Toyota’s California headquarters.

The panel selected Judge James V. Selna to preside over the litigation and coordinate pretrial discovery, where potentially damaging internal Toyota documents will be turned over to litigants.

Nearly two hundred suits have been filed concerning Toyota and its handling of unintended acceleration matters in U.S. federal and state courts. A finding by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it covered up a safety related defect, and delayed needed recalls concerning defective accelerator pedals compromises Toyota’s legal position. (See Toyota Broke Law! NHTSA Seeks Maximum Fines)

Toyota’s position is further weakened by Dimitrios Biller, a former Toyota attorney who sued the company last August, claiming that Toyota deliberately withheld evidence in rollover cases. That matter is currently in mediation in what looks to be a lengthy legal path. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has subpoenaed but not revealed (at least officially) some of Biller’s documents, alleges that they show possible violations of court discovery orders. (See Towns Claims Toyota Withheld Rollover Data )

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Viewers of might recall that we reported at length last year that Dimitrios Biller, the attorney involved in Toyota’s rollover litigation from 2003 to 2007 has a troubling prior history of suing employers, including the prosecutor’s office in California, where he also once worked before being dismissed. (Click here, and here.)