Fire recall dents Toyota's Chinese plans

25 August 2009

TOKYO: Toyota's dreams of supremacy in the fast-growing Chinese car market have been dealt a severe blow with the recall of 690,000 vehicles linked to a potential fire hazard.

The dramatic move, which focusses on a fault with electric window controls, relates to Camry and Yaris models built at factories across China, as well as a further 281,000 Vios and Corollas sharing the same rogue component. It is believed that over-lubrication, leading to potential short-circuiting, could be to blame for the fault.

All the vehicles concerned were produced at joint venture plants operated by Toyota in conjunction with local car-makers Guangzhou Automobile Group and Tianjin FAW.

The components themselves were also produced in China, news of which has raised concerns that Toyota is finding it hard to maintain quality standards in the country. Back in April, the Japanese car-maker was forced to recall 260,000 Chinese-built cars when a braking problem came to light.

Toyota produced 547,000 cars in China last year, all of which were destined for the local market. None of the recalled cars have been exported.

Faced with a contracting market back home, it is hardly surprising that Japanese car-makers are viewing opportunities in the People's Republic with great interest.

Private car ownership in the coumtry has grown by some 20% per year since the beginning of the decade and there is no evidence of a slowdown.

But China's car-makers too are upping their game. Armed with much improved car design and more efficient production, China's bid to create its own world-class automobile operation looks closer than ever.

Data sourced from The Times; additional content by WARC staff