2007 Lexus IS 250 sedans sit on a dealers lot in 2006. The model is among those… (David Zalubowski, Associated…)
Recalls continue to plague Toyota Motor Corp., with the latest round extending to its premium Lexus line in the United States and to vehicles sold in Europe, where the Japanese automaker wants to sell more cars.
Toyota is recalling 1.7 million vehicles worldwide because of a variety of problems with fuel systems. In the United States, Toyota said Wednesday that it would recall about 245,000 cars from its upscale Lexus line to inspect a fuel pressure sensor. Additionally, there are about 100,000 vehicles affected by the same problem outside of the U.S.
The automaker also said it would recall more than 1.3 million vehicles sold outside of the U.S. to fix various fuel system problems unrelated to the defect in the Lexus models. Almost 400,000 of those autos have two different defects to be inspected or fixed.
Toyota wasn't the only automaker recalling vehicles Wednesday. Ford Motor Co. recalled more than 425,000 1993 through 2003 Windstar minivans originally sold in the Midwest and along the eastern seaboard to fix brackets and body mounts that hold parts of the van together.
Ford said that the parts were not properly treated for corrosion and could break and cause a driver to lose control of the van.
Seven crashes and five minor injuries have been linked to the defect, said Wesley Sherwood III, a Ford spokesman.
Previously there had been about 600,000 Windstar vans recalled for corrosion problems of rear axles.
"When it comes to recalls, all the manufacturers are on high alert. They are quick to announce recalls because they all want to make sure they are not caught hiding something," said James Bell, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book. "But unfortunately for Toyota and Lexus, it has become a story on its own."
The latest round of Toyota recalls includes vehicles sold in Europe, where Toyota is considered just another Asian brand, rather than a market leader as in the U.S. That could hurt the automaker's efforts to increase sales, Bell said.
"They probably can't do any more damage to the brand in the U.S.," Bell said.
The latest recalls come almost a year after Toyota briefly stopped building some of its most popular models in the U.S. and suspended sales of the cars to fix a problem with sticky gas pedals. The company has recalled well over 10 million vehicles over the last 18 months.
Hampered by the recalls and the record payment of nearly $50 million in federal fines for failing to promptly inform regulators of defects in its vehicles and delaying recalls, Toyota saw its share of the U.S. auto market fall to 15.2% last year from 17% in 2009.
Toyota was the only major auto company to see U.S. sales decrease last year from 2009.
Chevrolet outsold the Toyota brand in 2010 for the first time since 2007. The American brand sold almost 1.6 million vehicles in 2009, compared with 1.5 million for Toyota. Ford had sales of just under 1.8 million vehicles in 2010 and outsold Toyota for the first time since 2006.
Analysts say that General Motors Co., which owns Chevrolet, could catch Toyota to once again become the world's largest auto company. GM's global sales rose 12.2% to 8.4 million vehicles last year. Global sales for Toyota rose 8% to 8.42 million.
The Toyota vehicles being recalled in the U.S. are the 2006 and 2007 Lexus GS 300 and GS 350, the 2006 through early 2009 Lexus IS 250 and the 2006 through early 2008 Lexus IS 350.
Toyota said that the pressure sensor could loosen over time and cause a fuel leak. Owners will be told of the recall by mail. They can also call (800) 255-3987 or look up details at http://www.lexus.com/recall.