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Auto blogThu, 17 Oct 2013 15:45:00 EST
Toyota has announced plans to voluntarily recall 803,000 vehicles from model years 2012 and 2013, over concerns with the air conditioning condenser housing. The recall covers the Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza, although the exact split between affected models wasn't available.
According to Toyota, the condenser can leak onto an airbag control module, which in turn could cause a short circuit. In most cases, this will just lead to an airbag warning light, but in rarer instances, the airbags could fail to deploy or pop out of their own accord. There's also a concern over a loss of power steering if the airbag control module develops a short.
It's unclear if there have been any injuries or crashes relating to the defects. Toyota will begin informing owners of affected vehicles via first class mail, and will ask them to report to dealerships for recall work, involving the installation of a cover on the condenser housing.
According to those all-too-nebulous "people familiar with the matter," Toyota is close to a settlement with the US federal government to end a criminal probe over its long-running unintended acceleration fiasco. Though Toyota has never admitted guilt, the deal could reportedly crest a billion dollars and would likely include a criminal deferred prosecution agreement, and while we're not legal experts, The Wall Street Journal explains that such a deal would "[force Toyota] to accept responsibility while avoiding the potentially crippling consequences of federal criminal convictions."
The report from WSJ also suggests that Toyota is facing charges that it "made false or incomplete disclosures" to various government agencies regarding possible defects to its cars. Such charges may include mail and wire fraud violations. Toyota has already paid out fines totaling $66.2 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because it failed to report safety defects in a timely manner.
This deal with the federal government is not related to the billion-dollar class-action settlement reached with Toyota owners over falling vehicle values, and it's also different from the roughly 400 lawsuits still in courts alleging personal injury of wrongful death due to cases of unintended acceleration. In other words, don't expect to hear the end of such courtroom verdicts and settlements anytime soon...
Toyota is the top-selling automaker in the world. Again. Still. With total reported sales, including those from subsidiaries, of 9.98 million in 2013, Toyota's performance was enough to outpace rival General Motors by around 270,000 vehicles. That's a 2.4-percent gain over 2012, and it makes Toyota the top-seller two years in a row. Still, the gap between the top three is shrinking - Toyota held a 460,000-unit lead in 2012.
GM sold 9.71 million vehicles last year, a four-percent increase, coming in second place ahead of Volkswagen, which sold around 9.5 million. According to Bloomberg, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said his company managed to win the sales race while also remaining more profitable than GM or VW.
It's going to be another interesting year in 2014 as the three behemoth automakers vie for the title of World's Largest. Toyota has predicted that it will increase sales in 2014 to 10.32 million - which would make Toyota the first automaker ever to surpass 10 million global sales - though General Motors and VW are expected to again fight for the lead in the massive Chinese market. Stay tuned.