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January 29, 2010

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Toyota widens recall to Europe

TOYOTA'S massive recalls over problem gas pedals in the United States are being extended to Europe, the latest blow to the world's top auto maker as it struggles to salvage its safety reputation.

The announcement yesterday in Europe comes after the company earlier this week said it was suspending US sales of eight models - including the Camry, America's top-selling car - to fix faulty gas pedals that could stick and cause acceleration without warning.

The scale of recalls over problems with sticking gas pedals and floor mats that can trap the accelerator have rapidly snowballed.

A week before the US sales suspension, Toyota issued a recall for the same eight models, affecting 2.3 million vehicles. Yesterday, it announced an additional recall of 1.09 million vehicles in the US covering five models - 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Venza, 2009-2010 Matrix, and 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe.

Those steps came on top of a recall in late 2009 involving 4.2 million vehicles amid concerns that floor mats could bend across gas pedals, causing sudden acceleration.

In Europe, Toyota is still unsure how many vehicles are affected.

Colin Hensley, a manager at the car maker's European operations, said the company is checking how many European models use the parts involved in the latest US recall.

The auto maker said it would communicate with European owners of vehicles that are affected by the problem of sticking pedals. "Toyota is making every effort to address this situation for our customers as quickly as possible," it said.

The problem is rare, Toyota said, and customers who are worried should contact customer service for help before recall instructions are issued.

The sales suspension in the US - Toyota's biggest market - could endanger the firm's fledgling earnings recovery. Toyota only returned to the black in the July-September quarter with net income of 21.8 billion yen (US$241 million) after three straight losing quarters.


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