Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will recall a total of 2.76 million vehicles worldwide due to steering wheel and water pump problems, including 1.5 million in Japan in what will be the largest-ever domestic recall by a vehicle maker.
The total figure is equivalent to Toyota's domestic production in 2011, which declined 15.9 percent from the previous year due to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan in March last year.
The automaker reported to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism on Wednesday its plan to recall a total of 1,518,098 units in Japan across 13 models, including the Prius hybrid car, produced between August 2000 and December 2011.
According to the ministry, the "intermediate extension shaft" that connects the steering wheel with the steering gearbox in the vehicles is not strong enough and could wear out, making steering difficult.
Subject to the recall for the shaft defect are 1,507,454 units of nine models.
Of the domestic total of 1,518,098 units, 175,176 units of five models have defects in pumps used to feed cooling water to hybrid system inverters. The coils in the pumps could short-circuit or break due to inappropriate work during manufacturing, according to the ministry.
The vehicles to be recalled in Japan include 345,144 units of the Prius, all of which are affected by the shaft problem, with 164,532 units also affected by the pump problem. Other models subject to the recall include the Wish, Corolla and Isis.
Since November 2009, the shaft defect has been confirmed in 18 cases and the pump defect in 396 cases, but no accidents have occurred as a result, Toyota said.
Toyota will recall 1.25 million vehicles of five models overseas due to the two defects.
A Toyota spokesman said the company "will continue utmost efforts to ensure appropriate quality through strict testing and evaluation in various conditions."
Industry observers said Toyota's largest-ever recall in Japan underlines the problems associated with standardizing components and design.
While such standardization is necessary to cut production costs, it can increase the scale of a recall, they said.
In April, Toyota announced a plan to promote the standardization of basic components for extensive cost reductions. The Volkswagen group of Germany is aiming to standardize up to 70 percent of all components, while Nissan Motor Co. is anticipating a 30 percent reduction in vehicle development costs with its new component standardization system.