Toyota moves fast on latest recall

Troubled Toyota Motor Corp. is planning a worldwide recall - probably Friday - of around 11,500 Lexus cars and has started a "service campaign" for more than 22,000 Passo hatchbacks in Japan, the latest bad news for the automaker.

Toyota officials have been quick to point out, however, that the Lexus recall - when it is issued - will be a swift response to a problem that the company first heard about in late March and that both faults can be traced back to software issues.

The tweaks required for the on-board computers will nevertheless raise more questions over Toyota's reputation for quality.

"We have responded quickly to this issue and [are] taking both matters very seriously," Paul Nolasco, a spokesman for the company in Tokyo, told Relaxnews.

"We have learned from the past and are reacting proactively now."

Toyota, the world's largest car manufacturer, was fined $16.38 million in the United States in April for failing to quickly notify authorities about a problem involving accelerator pedals in its vehicles.

The latest cars to be identified with a problem are four models of the luxury Lexus brand - the LS460 and LS460L and the hybrid versions the LS600h and the LS600hL. The concern has been traced to the variable gear ratio steering that is an option on many export models and returns the steering wheel to the centered position after certain maneuvers are made, such as U-turns, the company said.

The company has received a total of 12 complaints and the recall will cover around 4,500 vehicles in Japan, 3,800 versions in the US and more sold in Europe and China.

The problem with the Passo compact hatchback - which was only released here in February - involves technology that is designed to automatically reduce engine revolutions when the vehicle is idling, and therefore increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, but can occasionally cause the car to stall when the driver pushes the accelerator again.

The car has been hugely popular since it first hit the road here, particularly with women drivers.

Toyota has decided against issuing a formal recall notice as it does not believe the problem poses a safety hazard. It will carry out free repairs on 22,300 vehicles.

JR

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