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Toyota recalls 1.53 million cars

TOKYO — Toyota is recalling 1.53 million Lexus, Avalon and other models, mostly in the United States and Japan, for brake fluid and fuel pump problems, the latest in a string of quality lapses for the world's No. 1 automaker.

Toyota said Thursday that it will call back for repairs about 740,000 cars in the U.S. and 599,000 in Japan. The remainder are in Europe and other markets around the world. Honda also said it would recall an undetermined number of vehicles because of the same issue.

Over the past year, Toyota has recalled more than 10 million cars and trucks worldwide for a variety of problems, from faulty gas pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerators, to braking problems in its Prius hybrid. In August, Toyota recalled 1.33 million Corolla sedans and Matrix hatchbacks in the U.S. and Canada because their engines may stall.

The majority of vehicles this time around need to be fixed for a problem with the brake master cylinder that could lead to weaker braking power, spokesman Paul Nolasco said in Tokyo. Some models in Japan and elsewhere — but not in North America — have an electrical problem with the fuel pump which could cause the engine to stall, he said.

No accidents have been reported from the two defects, he said.

Nolasco said the recall decision was made under Toyota's new quality-control regime instituted over the past several months in response to criticism that the company was slow in dealing with the slew of safety problems earlier this year. Changes include naming a chief quality officer to head up regional quality control teams that have more autonomy and can contribute directly to decisions on whether recalls are required.

Toyota received initial complaints about both problems five years ago, but that didn't mean there was documentation of a pattern that would trigger a recall, Nolasco said.

"It takes a while to compile the evidence for a recall," Nolasco said. Once the evidence pointed to a need for a recall, the company moved immediately to announce one, he said.

Analysts said the recall decision, coming just two months after the Corolla and Matrix recall, seems to suggest that Toyota is trying to be more forthcoming about safety issues. American regulators hit Toyota with a $16.4 million fine for failing to promptly tell the government about its car defects.

Toyota will notify owners around the world by mail to come for repairs at no charge, Nolasco said.

In a letter to U.S. regulators, Toyota said it first received reports of leaking brake fluid in February 2005, and found they involved aftermarket fluid that was different from the Toyota fluid installed in new vehicles. Toyota attributed the problems to the fluid and changed the rubber seals used in the brake's master cylinders to be the same as in other Toyota vehicles, it said.

From 2006 to 2010, Toyota said it received reports of the problem "sporadically" and found in all cases that the rubber seals had curled and the brake fluid was not the original Toyota fluid.

FAST FACTS

Recall list

The recall announced Thursday affects the following vehicles in the United States:

• 2005-2006 Toyota Avalon

• 2004-2006 Toyota

Highlander (nonhybrid)

• 2004-2006 Lexus RX330

• 2006 Lexus GS300

• 2006 Lexus IS250

• 2006 Lexus IS350

• 2005-2007 Acura RL

• 2005-2007 Honda

Odyssey

Toyota recalls 1.53 million cars 10/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 9:53pm]

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