Toyota is ending 2010 much the way the year began, with another recall, though this latest safety action is significantly smaller than the sudden acceleration-related callback that shut down a sizable share of Toyota’s production operations last January.
The newest recall involves 94,000 of the Japanese maker’s newest minivans. A poorly designed brake light switch bracket is mounted too close to the 2011 Toyota Sienna’s parking brake which, when even partially engaged can result in the bracket being deformed. In turn, that can leave the brake lights lit and even result in the brakes themselves being partially applied.
Over time, that could lead to a loss of braking power and premature brake wear, the maker reported.
The news is another setback for a company that has been struggling to get its safety problems behind it. Since October 2009, when the first sudden acceleration recall was announced, Toyota has called back more than 11 million vehicles, the vast majority of them in the U.S. The second sudden acceleration recall, in January 2010, forced the maker to temporarily stop producing a number of key models.
But while the “runaway Toyota” problem has accounted for the lion’s share of the recall tally, in terms of number of vehicles impacted, the company has faced a stream of other safety related issues, including faulty brakes on the 2010 Prius, excess corrosion on older minivans and pickups, sudden stalling with Corollas, and even over-heating electronics with prior-generation Prius hybrids.
The impact is starting to be felt on the bottom line, Toyota profits tumbling in recent quarters as sales and production have begun to slide. The Japanese importer was the only major automaker to suffer a slump in volume in November, one of the best months for the U.S. auto industry, overall, in several years.
In January 2011, Toyota says it will notify owners of Sienna models produced before the beginning of last month advising them of the brake light bracket problem and what to do if an owner believes there is a problem with their vehicle. A second notice is expected to go out in February, when replacement parts become available and Toyota will be able to schedule repairs at local dealerships.
Concerned customers can also contact Toyota by phone, at 1-800-331-4331, or online, at www.Toyota.com/recall .