Embattled Japanese automaker Toyota has decided to recall 870,000 Sienna minivans in the United States and Canada because of corrosion problems.
The announcement came Friday, a day after the world's biggest automaker said it would suspend production and worldwide sales of its Lexus GX 460 and would conduct safety tests on all its Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) due to reports of rollover risk.
The recall affects 1998 through 2010 Sienna minivans that Toyota said could experience corrosion in the spare tire carrier cable if they had been operated in cold climates with high road salt use.
"In the worst case, the carrier cable may fail and the spare tire could become separated from the vehicle, a road hazard for following vehicles that increases the likelihood of a crash," Toyota said in a statement.
A spokesman for Toyota, Brian Lyons, said the company did not know of any accidents or injuries associated with the defect, but was checking.
Toyota said it is currently working to develop a remedy for the problem.
"Until this remedy is developed, customers will receive an interim notice instructing them to bring their vehicle to a dealership for a preliminary inspection," it said.
"Once the remedy has been developed, customers will receive a secondary notice advising the customer of the remedy availability."
The recall involves about 600,000 minivans in the United States and another 270,000 in Canada, the automaker said.
Toyota, which overtook General Motors in 2008 as the world's top auto seller, has been bedeviled by a series of safety issues that have raised questions about whether it sacrificed its legendary quality to become number one.
Toyota executives were hauled over the coals in the US Congress earlier this year and the company's previously stellar reputation for safety was left in tatters after it recalled more than eight million vehicles beginning late 2009 for brake and accelerator defects.
The automaker has been hit with at least 97 lawsuits seeking damages for injury or death linked to sudden acceleration and 138 class action lawsuits from customers suing to recoup losses in the resale value of Toyota vehicles.
The company faces a record USD 16.4 million fine in the United States for its failure to notify authorities quickly about problems with "sticky pedals" that could force vehicles to speed out of control. Officials have warned that further fines are possible.
Toyota suspended production and global sales of the Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicle after US magazine Consumer Reports gave the SUV a rare "Don't Buy: Safety Risk" rating Thursday in the latest blow to the reputation of the embattled Japanese auto giant.
When pushed to its limits, the rear of the GX "slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control," the magazine said.
Toyota said it will work on analyzing potential safety risks in the model, which has already sold 6,000 units.
This past week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an advisory asking motorists to use caution when driving the vehicle.