Accusations hit Toyota

The world’s largest carmaker Toyota last week admitted technical mistakes in its vehicles in Vietnam, but announced no recall or campaign to fix the vehicles.
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The admission follows Le Van Tach, a Vietnamese engineer of Toyota Motor Vietnam (TMV), sending documents to the Vietnam Register accusing the firm of selling vehicles with errors to the Vietnamese market.

The engineer’s documents revealed three technical mistakes in Toyota Innova and Toyota Fortuner, the best-selling models of TMV in Vietnam, that he said threatened the safety of drivers.

Tach said Toyota engineers found that the rear wheel brake cylinder pressure was higher than Toyota’s standard, which nearly reached 60 kilogrammes of force per square centimetre. This pressure level should range from 27.8-42.3 kilogrammes of force per square centimetre, according to Toyota standards.

In addition, the engineer said the bolts of the back seat to be tightening torque reduced and below standard of 200 to 600 kilogrammes of force per square centimeter. The lowest tightening torque of these cars is 144 kilogrammes of force per square centimetre. The last mistake was the camber tightening being not at standard load condition.

In documents sent to the Vietnam Register, Tach said those technical mistakes could affect the safety of vehicles. The rear wheel brake cylinder pressure mistake would make the braking power more effective and even lock the brake.

Meanwhile, the back seat bolt and camber tightening mistakes could loosen the back seat and upturn the vehicles when taking a sharp bend at high speed.

Toyota Innova is among the best-selling cars in Vietnam. In 2010, its sale volume reduced against 2009, but still recorded 7,419 units, bringing the accumulated sale of this model so far to over 53,000 units. Meanwhile, Fortuner with 6,551 units sold occupies the first position in the sports utility vehicle (SUV) segment with a 53.2 per cent market share.

The engineer said about 60,000 Toyota Innova and Toyota Fortuner units with those errors had been sold in Vietnam since 2006. However, TMV production manager Tadashi Yoshida affirmed there were only about 8,830 Toyota Innova J vehicles with those mistakes. In which the brake mistake was found in only 200 Toyota Innova Js.

He also said Toyota had no plan to recall the vehicles or implement any campaign to fix the mistakes. “We can assure that the mistakes will not affect the whole safety of vehicle when it is operating,” said Yoshida.

He said the mistake of braking oil pressure will make the braking power more effective compared with the ones having low brake cylinder pressure.

TMV claimed the firm had carried out test for both vehicles that have the rear wheel brake cylinder pressure out of standard and under standard at TMV’s test road and outside test road on wet road and the braking made at speed from 60 to 100 kilometers per hour. “The results show that the stop distance, brake deviation and brake feeling in all cases was the same,” it said in an announcement.

TMV claimed that it had randomly checked nine Innova of Taxi Hanoi Group – accounting only 4.5 per cent of 200 wrong vehicles sold to the market - to test the pressure of braking oil and found that all the units were under the standard.

For the two remaining mistakes, TMV said they would not affect general safety of the vehicle and just make noise when the bolt and camber loosened.

According to the firm, those mistakes were fixed at all the newly manufactured units at the production line.

Vietnam Register last week announced that it had asked Toyota to report the issues and that it would inspect potential mistakes in Toyota vehicles in the next few weeks.

Toyota is the largest player in Vietnam’s auto market, accounting for a 27.7 per cent market share. Last year, the firm sold 31,135 vehicles in the country, up 3.4 per cent against 2009.

Ngoc Linh (