TOKYO — Toyota recalled nearly 1.7 million cars worldwide Wednesday for possible fuel leaks, the latest in a ballooning number of quality problems that could further tarnish the company's reputation in the United States.
The recalls are mostly in Japan but include Lexus IS and GS luxury sedans sold in North America. Included under the recall are the 2006 and 2007 Lexus GS300/350, 2006 through early 2009 Lexus IS250, and 2006 through early 2008 Lexus IS350.
U.S. dealers will inspect cars to see whether loose fuel pressure sensors caused leaks. There were no accidents suspected to be related to those problems, according to Toyota. The carmaker has received more than 140 complaints in Japan and 77 elsewhere, including 75 in North America.
The latest quality hitch follows a spate of recalls that began in late 2009, mostly in North America, which now affect more than 12 million cars and trucks.
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Koji Endo, auto analyst with Advanced Research Japan Co. in Tokyo, said the newest recalls will cost Toyota $240 million but won't hurt its earnings much.
"But there is that perception of here we go again, and that hurts Toyota's image, especially in North America," he said.
To help respond to customer complaints and investigate quality concerns quickly, the company recently opened two field offices in Houston and Jacksonville, Fla. It plans to open another in Denver by the end of the first quarter, and already has offices in New York and San Francisco. They are part of Toyota's plan to improve global quality and communication within the company.