WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp. took almost two years to submit Wednesday's U.S. recall of Lexus models after the automaker's initial investigation of a potential gasoline leak failed to find defects in the cars' fuel-line components.
Toyota, the world's largest automaker, voluntarily recalled around 245,000 Lexus IS and GS luxury cars in the U.S. to inspect and tighten fuel-pressure sensors.
More than 10,000 Lexus models sold in Europe are also part of the Japanese's automaker's global 1.7 million-car recall to fix a variety of fuel system, pressure sensors and spare-tire carriers related problems.
The first U.S. report of fuel odor was in March 2009, according to a letter Toyota sent Thursday to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Toyota investigated the case and two more reports in 2009, including one from the U.K., and “no abnormality in parts was found,” said Brian Lyons, a spokesman for the Japanese automaker's U.S. unit in Torrance, California.
Toyota studied the Lexus issue throughout 2010, and not until reviewing manufacturing processes and an additional defect report could it determine the likely cause was a section of pipe that was tightened improperly, according to the letter. The time needed to uncover the problem isn't unusual, given how complex vehicles have become, said Ed Kim, director of analysis for industry researcher AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California.
“This is literally forensic analysis,” said Kim, who is a former U.S. product planner for Hyundai Motor Co. “Cars contain hundreds of thousands of pieces of machinery, and when there's a defect it can be pretty minute.”
Needle in haystack
“In many cases it's harder than finding a needle in a haystack,” he said.
Toyota's reputation for reliability has been damaged by record recalls in the past 18 months, largely for problems related to unintended acceleration. The company is under pressure to be as forthcoming as possible with defects, Kim said.