Two Chinese joint-ventures set up by Japanese auto giant Toyota Tuesday began a recall of 688,314 vehicles due to malfunctioning windows caused by auto part defects.
It is the largest auto recall in terms of the number of vehicles involved since 2004 when China ushered in an auto recall system.
The two companies, one in northern China's Tianjin Municipality and the other in southern China's Guangzhou city, are Toyota's two leading car manufacturing bases in the Chinese mainland.
A Tianjin FAW Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. spokesman said the cars had a defect in the electric window system that could cause malfunctions, short circuits and even fires. No injuries had been reported due to the defect.
According to a Toyota statement filed with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, the vehicles involved are 384,736 Camry models from Guangzhou Toyota produced from May 15, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2008, one of the most popular models in the midsize sedan sector in China, and 22,767 Yari compact models manufactured from May 15 to Dec. 31, 2008.
The recall also affected 35,523 Vios cars made from Feb. 18 to Dec. 25, 2008, and 245,288 Corolla models produced from May 17, 2007, to Dec. 25, 2008, the statement said.
Owners of the affected cars can contact Toyota from Tuesday to get faulty window switches replaced free of charge.
Company officials said the faulty parts originated from one supplier, but did not disclose its name.
A manager at an auto dealer in Tianjin, who only gave her surname, Zhao, acknowledged that many buyers had made inquiries after media reports of the recall.
But few came on the first day of the recall as the defects were not a safety risk, Zhao said.
They also had contacted owners by phone or text message and made appointments for repairs with about 10 owners each day.
"Many buyers haven't even noticed the defects, so they aren't in a hurry for repairs," said Zhang Ying, a salesman at another auto dealer in Tianjin. "The repair only takes about 30 minutes."
The recall would have little impact on sales, Zhang said.
"Chinese consumers are becoming more rational in choosing car brands and more objective towards recalls," he said.
Li Fuming, a prospective buyer, said despite the big recall, he still liked Toyota because its cars were energy-efficient.
He Kaiming, a senior engineer at China Automotive Technology and Research Center, said the recall showed Toyota had problems with quality control over auto parts.
Toyota recalled 80,000 Vios, Corolla and Yaris vehicles which had faulty manual transmissions in October 2008, and 121,930 Crown, Reiz and Lexus vehicles in December 2008. In April, it recalled 260,000 Camry cars that had defective brakes.
Tuesday's China Daily reported that Akio Toyoda, the company's new president, said earlier this month that Toyota would abandon its target of 15 percent of the global market share in 2010, shifting its focus from sales to quality.
Since the Chinese government implemented the automobile recall rules, 155 recalls involving 1.85 million vehicles had been recorded since the end of last year.
(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2009)