Toyota finds lethal faults in engines

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About 270,000 Toyota cars sold worldwide - including luxury Lexus sedans - have potentially faulty engines, the latest quality lapse to hit the Japanese auto maker following massive global recalls of top-selling models, the company said yesterday. Japan's top-selling daily Yomiuri said in its evening edition that Toyota will inform the transport ministry of a recall on Monday. The paper cited no sources.

Toyota spokesman Hideaki Homma said the company was evaluating measures to deal with the problem of defective engines that can stall while the vehicle is moving. He would not confirm a recall was being considered.

The auto maker has been working to patch up its reputation after recalling more than 8 million vehicles worldwide because of unintended acceleration and other defects.

Of the 270,000 vehicles with engine problems, some 180,000 were sold overseas and the rest in Japan. They include the popular Crown and seven Lexus models.

Toyota said it has received around 200 complaints in Japan over faulty engines. Some drivers told Toyota that the engines made a strange noise.

Homma said there have been no reports of accidents linked to the faulty engines.

The auto maker's shares dropped 2.3 percent to close at 3,010 yen (US$34.07) in Tokyo yesterday.

United States authorities recently slapped Toyota with a record US$16.4 million fine for acting too slowly to recall vehicles with defects. Toyota dealers have repaired millions of vehicles, but the car maker still faces more than 200 lawsuits tied to accidents, the lower resale value of Toyota vehicles and the drop in the company's stock.

Toyota said last week it will recall 17,000 Lexus luxury hybrids after finding fuel can spill during a rear-end crash.

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