World and Nation

Toyota recalling 1.5 million cars for problems

TOKYO—The Toyota Motor Co. announced a global recall of 1.53 million vehicles Thursday because of brake and fuel pump problems, but stressed that the repairs reflected a companywide effort to be more proactive in addressing potential flaws.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, will call back about 750,000 cars in North America, including Lexus and Avalon models, and 599,000 cars in Japan. The recalled models were mostly made between 2004 and 2006, a period of rapid growth for Toyota that analysts have charged coincided with lapses in the automaker’s attention to quality. About 140,000 cars in the rest of Asia and Australia, and 50,000 cars in Europe, also are being recalled.

Quality at Toyota has been under the spotlight since the automaker recalled about 8.5 million cars and trucks worldwide over a range of problems, including gas pedals that could jam or get stuck under floor mats, causing vehicles to speed out of control. The size of the earlier recalls, as well as Toyota’s slow handling of recall procedures, was widely criticized by U.S. policy makers and set off a series of congressional hearings.

The president of the company, Akio Toyoda, subsequently promised to improve quality and customer service, including paying more attention to customer complaints and speeding up recall decisions. In February, the automaker set up a special global committee to oversee quality, led by Toyoda.

“Every time we announce a recall, that is a step toward increasing quality,” a spokesman for Toyota in Tokyo, Paul Nolasco, said Thursday. The pedal-related recalls had “brought it home to Toyota that we need to refocus on quality,” he said.

Most of the vehicles in Thursday’s recall need to be fixed for a problem in the brakes’ master cylinder, Nolasco said. The cylinder, which contains brake fluid, could leak if filled with a third-party fluid, causing a loss in braking power, he said.

Toyota has also found an electrical fault with the fuel pump that could cause the engine to stall, Nolasco said. That defect was concentrated in models sold in Japan.

The automaker is not aware of any accidents linked to these problems, he said.

Analysts said Toyota was eager to appear more forthcoming about potential defects.

“The nature of the recall — the items they had problems with — are fairly mundane,” said Paul Newton, a London-based auto analyst at IHS Global Insight, a global research firm.

“They are trying to demonstrate to everybody that they’re on top of this,” Newton said. “They are trying to demonstrate that they’re more transparent.”