Troubled car maker Toyota is to recall up to two million cars in Britain and Europe because of defective accelerator pedals.
Thousands of Toyota owners in the UK are expected to be affected by the recall, which is to prevent the cars undergoing ‘unintended acceleration’.
Last year alone Toyota sold about 100,000 cars in the UK and around 1.5million across the whole of Europe.
The Japanese car giant said the problem, which causes the accelerator pedal to stick and keeps the car speeding even when the driver takes their foot off, had originally been found in parts from a US supplier.
But that has now spread to Europe. A spokesman for Toyota Europe in Brussels said: ‘Toyota will implement a recall in Europe for this matter X431 Diagun 3.’
Defect: Workers at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Princeton, Indiana, inspect a Toyota Tundra truck. Production lines have been shut down after a fault was found in accelerators in U.S. models
Earl Stewart, owner of Earl Stewart Toyota, shows the faulty accelerator pedal on one of the recalled vehicles in Florida
However, a spokesman in the UK said it did not yet know how many of the cars in its range sold in the UK – which includes the Prius, Rav4 off-roader, the British-built Avensis saloon and Auris hatchback and Yaris super-mini – will be affected by the fault but was working to tackle the problem.
But City analysts calculate up top two million cars across Europe may be affected on top of six million now recalled in North America and say the recalls could cost Toyota more than £325million a month.
Shares of Toyota fell a further four per cent in Tokyo trading on Thursday, taking losses since last week to more than 15 percent and wiping about $25 billion in value from Japan’s largest company.
The latest blow came as the company announced it would be cutting up to 750 jobs at its UK factory.
Toyota UK confirmed:’Toyota will implement a recall in Europe for this matter DS708.
‘The details of corrective action and implementation will be communicated directly to customers with vehicles potentially affected.
‘The models and exact number of potentially affected vehicles is under investigation.’
Potential buyers and a salesman look at Toyota Corollas on the lot in Norwood, Massachusetts
The statement from Toyota in the UK explained: ‘There is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.
‘This is caused because the accelerator pedal mechanisms concerned may become worn.
‘This progressive wear, combined with certain operating and environmental conditions, can cause friction in the mechanism to increase and intermittently result in the accelerator pedal being harder to depress, slow to return or, in the worst case, stick in a partially open position.’
Toyota added: ‘In case of occurrence, the driver may notice that the accelerator pedal is progressively harder to depress or is slower to return CK-100 Auto Key Programmer.
‘A rough or chattered feeling may also be experienced when depressing/releasing the accelerator pedal.’
It added: ‘A running change in production using different parts has already been implemented model-by-model in the European production.
‘Therefore there is no need or intention to stop production in Europe.’
Toyota advised customers with ‘concerns’ to contact Toyota GB Customer Relations on 0800 1388744 for assistance ‘ahead of the recall instructions being issued’.
Meanwhile Toyota warned unions it had a ‘headcount surplus’ of 750 at its main UK factory, raising fears of major job losses.
The Japanese company said 2009 had been a “tough year” and it had already announced operational cutbacks at its plant at Burnaston near Derby later this year.
The company said in a brief statement that it had discussed with unions how to manage the surplus to make sure it had a ‘sustainable business’ for the long term.
Union officials said they would be seeking urgent talks with the company to make sure any job losses were voluntary.
Employee Raul Quecada places a ‘No Sale’ sign on a used Toyota at a dealership in California following the announcement that many of the cars have defective accelerator pads
One of the models likely to be affected in Britain is the top-selling RAV4 off-roader, which has already been hit in America, though the vehicles sold here are made in Japan, not the US.
But other models could also be affected as the problem is centred on the accelerator pedal part and any cars in which it is used.
A spokesman for Toyota in the UK said: ‘The problem identified in America is that when the pedal gets warm, it becomes susceptible to condensation which causes it to swell. When it swells, the pedal sticks.’
On Tuesday Toyota suspended US sales of eight of its most popular models to fix pedals that could stick and cause acceleration without warning.
Production was also halted at six assembly plants beginning the week of Feb 1, and gave no date on when production could restart.
Last week, Toyota issued a recall for the same eight models involving 2.3 million vehicles.
Its factories in Japan are not affected, but a similar accelerator part is used in Europe.
Toyota has said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries due to the pedal problems l, but could not rule them out for sure.
The recall and sales suspension in the US includes the off-roader RAV4, Corolla, Camry, Matrix, Avalon, Highlander, Tundra and Sequoia models.
It follows a larger recall in September of 4.2 million vehicles to address problems with a removable floor mat that could cause accelerators to get stuck and lead to a crash.
That earlier recall, which follows several crashes and some fatalities, involves popular models including its Toyota Prius, the best-selling petrol-electric hybrid.