Toyota Recalls 1.5 Million Vehicles Worldwide

Toyota Motor (TM) is recalling 740,000 cars and sports-utility vehicles in the U.S. and nearly 600,000 units in Japan to repair a seal on the vehicles' brake master cylinder that may leak fluid and impair braking performance.

Affected models sold in the U.S. include 2005 to 2006 Toyota Avalon sedans and 2004 to 2006 Toyota Highlander (nonhybrid) SUVs as well as 2004 to 2006 Lexus RX330 SUVs, and 2006 Lexus GS300, IS250, and IS350 sedans, Toyota said in a statement posted late Wednesday on its website.

The automaker said in some instances a seal in the brake master cylinder may dry out. Should that happen, brake fluid could leak from the master cylinder onto the brake booster, illuminating a warning light on the instrument panel, Toyota said.

Should the vehicles continue to be operated without refilling the brake fluid container, drivers will begin to notice that the brake pedal feels "spongy," and braking performance may decline, Toyota said.

Toyota and Lexus dealers will make necessary repairs to the recalled vehicles at no charge to vehicle owners, the company said. Owners of affected vehicles will be notified by regular mail beginning early next month.

In Japan, the recall involves 599,029 vehicles across 11 model lines. Those models may also have a problem with faulty fuel pump wires. About 200,000 additional vehicles sold in other countries are also subject to the recalls, CNN International reported.

A third problem, related to defective speedometers, affects two additional models totaling nearly 2,000 cars in Japan, Toyota said. No accidents have yet been reported as a result of any of the defects, the company said in twin filings submitted with Japanese regulators.

Tough Year For Recalls

The recalls are the latest in a string of such actions by Toyota this year. Less than two months ago, the automaker said it would recall about 1.13 million Corolla and Matrix compact cars in North America due to engine stalling, following an investigation by federal safety officials.

Toyota's biggest recall so far this year involves two separate campaigns to repair some 8 million cars in the U.S. to prevent unintended acceleration, caused by sticky gas pedals or bulky rubber floor mats that can pin accelerator pedals to the vehicles' floor.

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Earlier this month, Toyota said it had repaired 80% of the vehicles with the sticky pedal issue and 58% of those with floor mat problems. Federal investigators, however, are still looking into other causes, including electronic interference, that may result in Toyota vehicles accelerating uncontrollably.

The sticky pedal recall was the subject of a record $16.4 million fine assessed by U.S. regulators in April for Toyota's failure to quickly disclose what it knew about the defect.

The numerous recalls have taken their toll on Toyota sales. Once the No. 2 supplier of vehicles to the U.S. market, Toyota has fallen behind once third-place Ford Motor (F) for much of the year.

Toyota also faces massive lawsuits related to its quality woes. They include a claim brought by a group of Toyota stockholders who allege the automaker concealed problems related to unintended acceleration in its vehicles.

In addition to Toyota's recall Wednesday, Chrysler Group and Volvo also issued safety recalls. Chrysler's campaign involves nearly 27,000 cars and trucks to repair power-steering hoses that may become disconnected and leak fluid, possibly resulting in a fire. Meanwhile, Volvo said it was recalling nearly 10,000 vehicles to fix faulty driver's side airbags.