Toyota recalls 1.7m vehicles globally over 'fuel leak'

The BBC's Roland Buerk says the majority of cars affected are in Japan

Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is to recall nearly 1.7 million vehicles worldwide over concerns about a possible fuel leakage.

About 1.2 million models are being recalled in Japan and 421,000 overseas, including 15,500 Avensis and 3,100 Lexus models in the UK.

Japan's transport ministry said slight cracks could appear in fuel pipes which could cause leakages if untreated.

No accidents have been reported because of the flaw, said Toyota.

"Slight cracks may appear on the engine fuel pipes. If [the car] continues to be used, the crack may be widened and there may be risks of fuel leakage," the ministry said in a statement.

There have been 140 reports in Japan of the problem.

Toyota said that some Lexus models would be included in the recall.

Toyota US said it would conduct voluntary recalls of about 245,000 Lexus models. These include GS300/350 models made in 2006 and 2007, IS250s models made between 2006 and early 2009, and Lexus IS350 models produced between 2006 and early 2008.

Analysis

Another year and another mass recall for the world's largest carmaker.

It will obviously cause further damage to its hard-earned reputation as a producer of quality cars.

But the extent of the damage will depend on how Toyota's executives deal with it.

Last year, their slow and awkward responses were widely deemed to have made matters worse in the eye of the public.

So this time, the question will be whether they have learnt any lessons.

The carmaker said owners of the relevant vehicles would be notified by post.

In the UK, Toyota said it would be recalling 15,500 Avensis 2.0 litre and 2.4 litre petrol-engined models made between July 2000 and September 2008, as well as 3,100 Lexus IS250 petrol-engined models made between August 2007 and February 2009.

"We will liaise with our customers to carry out the repair procedures as efficiently as possible, with minimal disruption," said Toyota UK's managing director Jon Williams.

Record fine

These are the latest in a long line of recalls at the world's largest carmaker.

Toyota has now recalled about 12 million cars in the past 18 months, including 14 separate recalls last year.

As a result, the carmaker's reputation for quality and reliability has taken a knock, especially in America where it was the only major carmaker to see sales fall in 2010.

The latest recall will only compound the problem, analysts said.

"There is that perception of here we go again, and that hurts Toyota's image, especially in North America," said Koji Endo at Advanced Research Japan.

In September 2009, Toyota recalled four million cars after fears that the accelerator pedal could get stuck on the floormat.

In January last year, it recalled a further 2.3 million cars to fix potentially faulty accelerator pedals.

In August, it recalled a further 1.1 million Corolla and Matrix models over an engine control system fault, and in October it called in more than 1.5 million cars over brake and fuel pump defects.

Last month, the carmaker agreed to pay a record fine of $32.4m (£20.8m) in the US, following a $16.4m penalty in April, over its handling of the recalls.

Earlier this week, Toyota announced global sales of 8.42 million vehicles, just ahead of General Motors' 8.39 million, confirming its position as the world's biggest carmaker for the third year in a row.

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