New Safety Risks Hit Toyota, Mazda

Toyota suspended production and sales of its Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicle and Mazda announced a recall of 90,000 cars.

Further trouble for Japan's auto industry emerged on April 15 as embattled Toyota suspended production and sales of its Lexus GX 460 sport utility vehicle and Mazda announced a recall of 90,000 cars.

Toyota said it would suspend production and worldwide sales of its Lexus GX 460 due to a rollover risk at high-speed, and would protectively conduct safety tests on all its SUVs.

Mazda Motor, which is part owned by Ford, also said on April 15 it would recall nearly 90,000 passenger cars domestically and in China due to an oil hose defect.

For Toyota, the move to halt production of the Lexus SUV for nine working days this month and suspend global sales came after the magazine Consumer Reports gave the vehicle a rare "Don't Buy: Safety Risk" rating. "The company has decided to suspend the SUV's sales worldwide, which means also in Russia and Middle East after North America," said Toyota spokeswoman Mieko Iwasaki, before the company announced it would also suspend production.

Production of the Lexus GX 460 would be suspended at Toyota's Tahara plant in Japan, the only plant in the world that produces the model. Production of other models at the plant would not be affected, the company added.

In the latest blow to the auto giant's reputation, Consumer Reports said that, 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".

Toyota added it will work on identifying potential safety risks in the model which has sold 6,000 units, as well as its other SUVs. "We are in the middle of analyzing what the problem is. Once it becomes clear, the company will decide whether to recall and repair the cars," Iwasaki said. Concerned GX 460 owners will be offered a loan car in the interim.

The automaker will also "start testing all the other SUV models, including the Land Cruiser, Land Cruiser Prado and RAV 4," she said, adding that Toyota will continue to sell those models.

Mazda, which vies with Mitsubishi for the rank of Japan's number four car maker, said it will start recalling 35,181 units in Japan and around 54,000 in China of the Mazda 3, known as the Axela in Japan, its most popular model.

The company said the cars, produced from January 2006 to March 2009, have been recalled because an oil hose and a radiator shroud panel have been placed too close together and may be damaged by friction when travelling on bumpy terrain, leading to potential leaks.

A company spokesman said Mazda received two complaints, both in China, and stressed that no related accidents had been reported.

The Mazda 3 compact car is widely sold in Japan, China and Europe but the recalled version is not available in the United States, said the company.

No decision had yet been taken if the recall will affect other regions such as the European market, the spokesman said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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