Toyota has recalled about 150,000 2001-4 Tacoma pickups to fix a rust problem that could allow the spare tire to fall from beneath the vehicle. Toyota told NHTSA that part of the mechanism that holds the tire was not properly treated with an anti-corrosive. That means it could rust, break and allow the tire to fall. On the Tacoma, the spare tire is carried beneath the pickup’s bed.
The recall covers only vehicles registered or sold in 20 states and the District of Columbia with “high road-salt usage,” Toyota said, adding it does not believe there is a problem in other states. Such an action is called a regional recall, and automotive consumer advocates, like the Center for Auto Safety, have long criticized NHTSA for allowing them. The center contends that such actions save automakers money, but some vehicles that need the repair may not get it. The agency has disagreed with that criticism.
The states covered are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. Toyota will inspect – and if necessary – repair Tacomas in the other states at no charge. Owners will be notified by mail. That program is being conducted as a service campaign which does not have the same government, legal requirements – like reporting completion rates – as a formal recall.
Toyota says the 2005-13 Tacomas used a different manufacturing process and should not have a problem. Toyota says it first received reports of a rust problem from owners late in 2009. By August 2011, the company had analyzed 135 suspect parts and found the anti-corrosion coating was “inconsistent.” The company continued testing parts “under various driving conditions such as a high-speed turn” in addition to investigating “the amount of salt water that could reach the spare tire carrier plate.”
According to the automaker, in early December it finally concluded a recall was needed. Toyota described the recall as voluntary, but once a manufacturer is aware of a safety problem it must – within five working days – inform the agency of its plan for a recall or face a civil fine. Toyota has previously been in trouble with NHTSA over the promptness of its reports. Toyota agreed in April 2010 to pay a $16.4 million fine to settle a complaint by the agency that the automaker had delayed in recalling vehicles with sticking accelerator pedals. The Tacoma has been troubled with severe rust problems before. In 2008 — faced with thousands of angry owners — the automaker announced an extended warranty and buyback program that covered 813,000 1995-2000 Tacoma pickups with frames so badly rusted that they could be repaired.
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