Toyota is repairing more than 1.6 million vehicles around the world, including the U.S. and Japan, for potentially leaky oil hoses — the latest in a spate of quality problems battering the world's biggest automaker.
The fix affects 1.3 million vehicles in North America, including repairs that have yet to be officially announced on 100,000 Highlander crossovers and 215,000 Sienna minivans, Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said Tuesday.
Repairs on 45,000 vehicles in Japan have already been rolled out since October. The problem affects an additional 230,000 vehicles in 90 other nations, Takeuchi said. The models involved in Japan are the Harrier luxury model, Estima minivan, Blade hatchback, Mark X Zio sedan and Vanguard crossover.
Toyota does not consider the latest repair a recall because the problem doesn't endanger safety, and categorizes it as a "service campaign," with owners receiving notices through dealers about the needed repair.
"This is a routine measure," said Takeuchi. "We are not hiding anything."
The automaker earlier Tuesday said some 1 million vehicles were affected after the repair for the oil-supply engine hose was expanded overnight in the U.S. to include 2007 and 2009 RAV4 sport utility vehicles and some Avalon sedan models, totaling 217,800 vehicles.
It was unclear when U.S. owners would receive notices on the Highlander and Sienna repairs, but Toyota was making preparations now, Takeuchi said.
Toyota's quality standards have come under intense scrutiny following global recalls of some 8.5 million vehicles for gas pedal, floor mat and braking problems, mostly in the U.S.
In Europe, the global recalls affects 1.7 million vehicles for the gas-pedal problems, and nearly 53,000 Prius hybrids for the antilock braking glitch, according to an updated tally.
In the latest defect, faulty hoses can cause engine noise and light up the oil pressure light on vehicle dashboards, according to Toyota. In the U.S., the problem also affects the best-selling Camry and two Lexus models.
Toyota President Akio Toyoda returned to Japan Tuesday after apologizing the day before in Beijing, seeking to placate growing consumer worries.
In Beijing, Toyoda made a formal Japanese-style deep bow of contrition — the first time since the recall fiasco surfaced — that immediately followed his words of apology. He had apologized earlier in Japan and the U.S., but did not offer a bow of apology.
"I learned a lot," Toyoda told reporters at the company's Nagoya office. "We will really do what we can from now to transform to the kind of company that will have people saying they can trust in our transparency and our customer focus."
Toyoda was encouraged by the response he got from American lawmakers, who expect Toyota to learn from its mistakes to become a great company, not just a good company, he said.
But he did not respond when asked about the leaky oil hoses, and it was still undecided whether he would go to Europe, where he has yet to offer a personal apology, according to Toyota.
Yasuaki Iwamoto, auto analyst with Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo, said U.S. consumers were unlikely to be forgiving, and Toyota must continue to show how it has improved quality checks, not just make promises.
"Brand recovery in the U.S. will take time, and there are no shortcuts," he said.
China was another important growth market for Toyota, but the backlash there may be easier to contain, Iwamoto said, because of the smaller numbers of recalls. Some 75,000 RAV4 vehicles are being fixed in China for sticky gas pedals.
Toyoda has said the automaker grew too fast in recent years and failed to listen as closely as it should have to consumer complaints about its vehicles.
Toyoda was grilled by U.S. lawmakers at a congressional hearing last week. Three other Toyota executives are scheduled to appear at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation later in the day.
Toyota will announce that former U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater will lead the panel that will review the company's quality control systems, according to remarks planned for delivery by Toyota executive Yoshi Inaba.
The U.S. government has attributed 34 deaths to alleged sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2000. Since September, Toyota has recalled about 6 million vehicles in the U.S.
Separately, Hyundai Motor of South Korea said Tuesday it was recalling 515 Tucson SUVs, produced from Nov. 10-30, 2009 for a defect in safety devices related to air bags.
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