Toyota recalled nearly 1.7 million cars worldwide Wednesday for feasible fuel leaks, the latest in a ballooning number of high quality issues that could additional tarnish the company's reputation within the U.S. The recalls are mainly in Japan, but include Lexus IS and GS luxury sedans sold in North America. That is exactly where the company faces the greatest challenges in winning back consumer trust.
U.S. dealers will inspect cars to see whether loose fuel-pressure sensors caused leaks. There were no accidents suspected of becoming brought on by those issues, according to Toyota.
The carmaker has received 77 complaints overseas, 75 of them in North America and more than 140 in Japan.
The newest high quality hitch follows a spate of recalls that began in late 2009, mostly in North America, which now cover much more than 12 million cars and trucks.
The recalls involve malfunctioning floor mats and gas pedals that get stuck, some of them suspected of causing unintended acceleration.
Wednesday's recalls come precisely one year after Toyota stopped selling eight models within the U.S. because of unintended acceleration issues.
The sales suspension affected 60% of Toyota's lineup within the U.S. and was the initial of four sales halts last year.
Koji Endo, auto analyst with Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo, said the newest recalls will cost Toyota about 20 billion yen ($240 million), but won't hurt its earnings a lot.
"But there is that perception of 'Here we go again,' and that hurts Toyota's image, especially in North America," he said.
The greatest harm to Toyota's image has been in the U.S., where its response to safety problems was observed as slow. The company's U.S. sales lagged final year despite an industry recovery.
Some say that Toyota's persistent drive for growth hurt high quality.
The company has lost some potential U.S. customers: A survey carried out by consumer Web site Edmunds.com showed that 17.9% of all automobile shoppers last month were thinking about a Toyota, a 3.8% point drop from a year earlier.
That drop in consideration might be blamed on Toyota's recalls, as well as its aging lineup.
"Toyota needs to overcome not just the PR damage sustained by last year's recalls, but also the reality that numerous of its models are stale," said Jessica Caldwell, director of pricing and industry analysis for Edmunds.
Toyota has stayed well-liked in Japan, partly because government incentives for green vehicles sent sales of its Prius gasoline-electric hybrid booming.
The company is likely trying to be aggressive with recalls and so the newest one is not a sign that high quality is taking an additional dive in the company, Endo stated.
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