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Toyota Begins Recall over Faulty Engines

Toyota started recalling more than 90,000 luxury Lexus and Crown vehicles Monday in Japan over defective engines – the latest setback for the automaker beset with quality problems.

Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Paul Nolasco said recalls in overseas markets will follow soon, totaling about 270,000 vehicles globally. That includes: 138,000 vehicles in the U.S., 15,000 in Europe, 10,000 in the Middle East, 6,000 in China, 4,000 in Canada, and 8,000 in other regions.

Toyota told the Japanese government Monday it was recalling 91,903 vehicles for flaws in the valve springs, a crucial engine component, that could make the automobile stall while in motion. “We apologize for inconveniencing our customers. We hope to fix the problem soon,” Nolasco said.

The quality problem affecting top-of-the-line products comes as Toyota struggles to move on from massive global recalls that started in October. It already has recalled more than 8.5 million vehicles for various problems, including sticking gas pedals, braking software glitches and defective floor mats.

The world’s top automaker was fined a record $16.4 million in the United States for responding too slowly when the recall crisis erupted.

The latest woes come on top of a recall last week for 17,000 Lexus hybrids after testing showed fuel can spill during a rear-end crash.

Analysts said Monday’s recall did little to instill consumer confidence after Toyota President Akio Toyoda, facing shareholders last month, vowed to improve vehicle quality inspections.

“It is not doing a good job in communicating a message about what exactly it is doing to beef up quality checks,” said Shotaro Noguchi, auto analyst with Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo. “So it is hard for people to believe Toyota is taking the customer’s view as it is promising to do.”

The company announced the latest quality problems last week. Some 180,000 of the defective automobiles were sold overseas, 138,000 of them in the United States.

No accidents or injuries have been reported because of the defect. About 220 complaints have been reported.

Toyota said it was replacing the valve spring in the recalled vehicles, produced between July 2005 and August 2008 – Lexus models GS350, GS450h, GS460, IS350, LS460, LS600h, LS600hL and Crown models.

Toyota also faces more than 200 lawsuits in the U.S. tied to accidents involving defective automobiles, the lower resale value of Toyota vehicles, and a drop in its stock value.

The Tokyo market reacted with calm to Toyota’s recall news. Toyota shares gained 0.5 percent to finish at 3,035 yen.

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