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Auto blogThu, 10 Jul 2014 12:01:00 EST
Introduced at the end of 2006, this is the last year for the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the reincarnated FJ40-series Land Cruiser that will shortly journey to Takama-ga-hara, the Plain of High Heaven. In its first model year, we drove it to SEMA and found it, shall we say, coarse. It bobbled on the freeway and droned in the cabin, its boxy interior providing four bounce-boards for unpleasant frequencies. Tall mirrors helped one work around the eclipse of vision aft of the B-pillars, but navigating traffic required forethought and technique. Its turning circle was measured in kilometers. For the first two years of its life, it needed premium gas. It may have been fun to look at, but we couldn't wait to get out of it.
That's not the case anymore, and now the FJ Cruiser is poised to join a long list of vehicles that got better and better, then got axed.
It looks like 2014 may go down as the year of recalls. We were already at a record pace, and now it seems Toyota is recalling 6.39 million vehicles worldwide, including about 30 of its models for a variety of problems. None of the faults have caused any injuries or fatalities, but there have been two reports of fires caused by a defective engine starter motor.
Toyota's numbers show 1.772 million vehicles being recalled in the US, but that includes some overlap because the Yaris is being repaired for multiple faults. According to The Detroit News, there are 2.36 million affected models in all of north North America, 1.09 million in Japan and 810,000 in Europe, plus smaller numbers in other regions.
Among the vehicles recalled in the US are 1.3 million units of the 2009-2010 Corolla, Matrix and Tacoma, the 2008-2010 Highlander, the 2006-2008 Rav4 and 2006-2010 Yaris. The problem is that the driver's airbag module is attached via a spiral electrical cable. The connections on the cable can be damaged when the steering wheel is turned, which deactivates the airbag and causes the airbag warning light to come on. Toyota is replacing the cable with an improved part, but it's still making preparations to begin the repair. The company is sending affected owners notifications in the mail. According to The Detroit News, an unspecified number of Pontiac Vibe vehicles are also included in this recall because it shares the part with the Matrix.
Toyota is on track for record profits, and in return, its Japanese workers are receiving their first increase in base wages since 2008, plus higher pay based on seniority and a larger bonus for 2014. The Japanese automaker predicts the average laborer will net a 2.9 percent income gain.
The average Toyota employee will earn 2,700 yen ($26.28) more each month, a 0.8 percent increase from last year. Workers will also receive about 7,300 yen ($71.09) more monthly based on seniority and promotions. Finally, the company's union pushed through a median bonus of 2.44 million yen ($23,768) for 2014, the highest in 6 years.
The pay boost comes as Toyota forecasts a record 1.9-trillion yen ($18.5 billion) profit for the fiscal year ending on March 31, according to Bloomberg. It has been helped by the Japanese government's efforts to weaken the yen on international markets and expand inflation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been asking businesses to increase compensation to end years of deflation and offset upcoming higher sales taxes. Honda and Nissan have also raised their wages there in recent months.