Toyota has recalled another 870,000 vehicles in North America, this time over concerns that spare tyres could fall onto the road due to a corroding cable.
While vehicle recalls are commonplace and affect all carmakers, Toyota is under intense scrutiny in the wake of a series of damaging incidents involving sticky accelerator pedals, out-of-place floor-mats and erratic braking systems.
These issues have led to recalls of more than 8m vehicles worldwide since last November. Toyota faces scores of lawsuits and is under investigation by the US Congress and US safety regulators.
The Japanese carmaker received further unwelcome publicity last week when it suspended sales of its Lexus GX 460 sport-utility vehicle following a rare safety warning by Consumer Reports magazine, an influential US consumer watchdog.
Senior members of the House energy and commerce committee said on Friday they planned to hold a follow-up hearing on May 6 to examine potential defects in Toyota’s electronic systems that may have caused unintended acceleration. They have asked Jim Lentz, head of Toyota’s US sales arm, to attend.
The company has so far insisted that that it has found no evidence of electronic defects, and that the unintended acceleration problems are due to out-of-place floor mats and a mechanical defect in the accelerator pedal.
Toyota said in a statement that it was “more than willing to meet with the committee and discuss the ongoing testing related to our electronic throttle control system, as well as the steps we are taking to improve our quality assurance processes”.
The latest recalls affect Sienna minivans in 20 cold-climate states where road salt can corrode the cable supporting the spare tyre. Toyota said it was developing a solution. Owners will be asked to bring their vehicles to a dealership for an inspection.
Meanwhile, the carmaker faces a Monday deadline to decide whether to pay or fight a $16.4m fine imposed by US regulators for delays in notifying them about the flaws in its accelerator pedals. The fine is the largest civil penalty ever imposed on a carmaker by the government.