Stung by new concerns about the safety of its vehicles, Toyota Motor Corp. has announced a remedy to the Vehicle Stability Control program in two of its best-selling models and that it will recall some 34,000 vehicles to tweak the software. In the US, it has announced that it will offer owners a courtesy car during the repairs.
Subject to the recall are 13,000 Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicles and 21,000 Land Cruiser Prado cars.
A report in the US magazine Consumer Reports last week stated that the Lexus GX is at risk of rolling over when a driver makes a turn at high speed. The magazine slapped a "Don't buy" recommendation on the vehicle, prompting the rapid response from Toyota's engineers.
In a statement issued from the company's headquarters, in Toyota City, it confirmed that, "In circumstances in which advanced driving skills are required, such as when a driver of the involved vehicle sharply turns the steering wheel in high-speed conditions, or when the driver negotiates a curve at excessive speeds, the vehicle could slide sideways, due to the insufficient activation of the VSC."
The company has identified three contributing factors to the problem, it said, including the location of heavy components - including the fuel tank - on the left side of the vehicle, a situation that is worsened when the driver is on the same side in a left-hand driver version, while the VSC may also not have been programmed to activate in certain situations with vehicles equipped with 18-inch wheels.
In a statement released by Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America, he said, "Our engineers have conducted tests to confirm the VSC performance issue raised by Consumer Reports and we are confident this VSC software update addresses the concern."
Of the 13,000 Lexus vehicles subject to the recall, 9,400 are in the United States, around 1,000 are in Russia and a similar number are in Oman. Of the Land Cruisers, some 4,400 units are in Oman, 4,000 are in Russia and a further 1,500 are in the United Arab Emirates. No right-hand drive vehicles have the problem, the company said.
Toyota dealerships in the United States are to contact owners of the cars affected by the recall in the next two weeks so they can undergo the modification, with owners provided with a courtesy car for the duration of the repair work. No deadline has been set for customer in other countries, the company said, although it added that Toyota "will work to implement similar measures as soon as possible."
The announcement comes the day after Toyota agreed to pay a fine of $16.38 million imposed by authorities in the US for failing to quickly notify them of problems with accelerator pedals.
Toyota, the world's largest car manufacturer, was criticized for failing to act in good time in that case, with officials here hoping the rapid response to this latest fault will help assuage public concerns.