This is the latest in a series of recalls triggered by concern over Toyota’s safety record, which reached a crescendo early this year over complaints about sluggish accelerator pedals

Toyota has announced it will repair 1.66m cars around the globe because of new safety fears over faulty brakes and stalling engines in the latest recall to hit the world’s largest car maker.

The Japanese company, whose safety record became the subject of Congressional hearings in the U.S. earlier this year, has already recalled ten million vehicles in total over the past 12 months. The latest problems have not been known to cause any accidents so far, the company stressed.

About half the cars being recalled are in the U.S. with most being called back in over fears that brake fluid could leak, resulting in less braking power. Toyota said “in the unlikely event” that this happened, the brake fluid warning light would flash and the brakes would keep working normally for more than 320kms of regular driving. In the U.S., 740,000 Avalon, Highlander and some Lexus cars are being recalled because of this problem.

Another problem concerns a fault which may cause the fuel pump and the engine to stop without warning. A further 600,000 cars in Japan are being recalled because of the two faults and another 134,000 cars in China because of a separate problem over rusting rear disk brakes.

Concern over Toyota’s safety record reached a crescendo early this year over complaints, mostly in the U.S., about sticky accelerator pedals. Motorists said the pedal would become trapped under a floor mat or stick or spring back too slowly.

A class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. in late 2008 alleged that the company had known about the problem for four years and had received 2,000 complaints. In total, lawsuits allege that the problem accounts for around 100 deaths in the U.S.

But a preliminary U.S. government report investigating 58 accidents said to have been caused by faulty accelerator pedals which was released in September suggests that they were more likely to have been caused by human error.

Paul Newton, automotive analyst from IHS Global Insight, said Toyota was paying the price for not taking the claims seriously at first, so that when it issues recalls now — which are common in the industry — they attract more negative publicity.

“Other car makers like General Motors have probably issued a similar number of recalls as Toyota over the last decade,” he said. “The problem with Toyota is that when problems first surfaced with some of their vehicles, they were a bit dismissive. The company did not treat the complaints as seriously as it should have.

“Most companies issue recall notices on a regional basis and they stay under the radar more. Now, in the interests of full transparency and honesty, Toyota is announcing all its global recalls together, which is partly why it gets more coverage.”

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2010

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