Toyota Recalls SUVs After Seat Belt Separated in Fatal Crash

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An employee cleans a Toyota RAV4 vehicle at a showroom in Moscow. RAV4 owners will be notified by mail of the recall.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
  • Company unable to determine if defect caused Canada fatality
  • Fixing rear seat frames that could cut or separate seat belts

Toyota Motor Corp. is recalling about 2.87 million sport utility vehicles worldwide after rear seat belts separated in one fatal accident in Canada and during a crash that injured a passenger in the U.S.

The automaker has been unable to confirm if the fatality or injury are connected with the defect prompting its recall of RAV4, RAV4 EV and Vanguard SUV models, spokeswoman Kayo Doi said in an e-mail. Rear seat belts in the vehicles could be cut by metal seat-cushion frames in severe front crashes and fail to restrain passengers, she said.

The seat belt issue poses risk to the RAV4’s image as the model becomes one of Toyota’s most significant in the U.S. market. The SUV may surpass Camry, the industry’s top-selling car in the U.S. for the last 14 years, and become Toyota’s biggest seller within the next five years, Senior Vice President Bob Carter said in December.

The recall also tacks on to what is already one of Toyota’s biggest ever repair campaigns involving safety devices. Toyota is among 14 manufacturers calling back about 24 million vehicles to replace Takata Corp. inflators that have ruptured and led to the largest U.S. auto-safety recall. Older RAV4 models also are included in the Takata air bag recall.

Toyota is initiating its latest recall after Canada’s regulator reported in October that seat belts had been damaged during crash-test research, Doi said. The recall is due to Toyota’s vehicle design and not its suppliers, she said. 

Dealers will install resin covers for rear metal seat frames at no cost to customers. The recall includes about 1.33 million vehicles in North America, 625,000 in Europe and 434,000 in China, according to the company.

Mitsubishi Recall

In a separate recall, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is repairing about 1.4 million vehicles worldwide, Japan’s transport ministry announced Thursday. The automaker is fixing faulty switches that may prevent headlights and turn signals from turning on and off properly, Haruo Otani, a ministry official, said by phone.

Toyota’s shares rose 1.7 percent at the close in Tokyo as the benchmark Topix index advanced 2.2 percent. Mitsubishi Motors gained 2.7 percent.

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