Toyota recalls 50,000 Sequoia SUVs in the US to fix stability control

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Embattled Japanese automaker Toyota announced the recall Wednesday of 50,000 Sequoia sport utility vehicles in the United States to fix problems with stability control.

This latest recall comes as the auto giant is looking to restore its battered reputation after recalling around 10 million vehicles worldwide, mostly for problems with sudden acceleration which have been blamed for 58 deaths in the United States.

Last week the company agreed to pay a 16.4-million-dollar fine, the largest ever for an automaker in the United States, for hiding the deadly accelerator pedal defects for at least four months.

The recall crisis triggered a ratings downgrade by Moody's over concerns that product quality issues and the cost of litigation will dent Toyota's future profitability.

However, Toyota said Monday that global sales surged 26.3 percent in March to 876,126 vehicles in March, from 693,759 a year earlier.

Toyota said the latest recall, which affected early 2003 model-year Toyota Sequoia vehicles, would allow it to upgrade the programming in the vehicle stability control (VSC) system.

"The VSC system can help control a loss of traction in turns as a result of front or rear tire slippage during cornering," Toyota said in a statement.

"In vehicles without the upgrade, the VSC system could, in limited situations, activate at low speed (approximately 9 miles per hour) for a few seconds after acceleration from a stopped position and, as a result, the vehicle may not accelerate as quickly as the driver expects."

Toyota said there were no accidents or injuries associated with the defect.

Toyota, which faced intense criticism for its handling of defects, said it published a "technical service bulletin" after it discovered the defect in the fall of 2003.

The automaker said it had already repaired about half of the affected vehicles but was issuing a voluntary recall "to ensure that as many 2003 Sequoias as possible are serviced to the full satisfaction of our customers."

"Toyota is committed to investigating customer complaints more aggressively and to responding quickly to issues we identify in our vehicles," said Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer for North America.

Customers who had paid to replace the skid control engine control unit can apply for a refund, Toyota said.

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