The Japanese automaker said its third recall since October will involve more than a million cars affected by an IC chip in the airbag control unit that can potentially malfunction when it receives electrical interference from other parts in the car. The defect would essentially cause airbags to deploy spontaneously, Toyota spokesman, Naoto Fuse, said on Wednesday.
Toyota said it is also recalling certain Corolla and Corolla Matrix vehicles in Japan, Canada, and Mexico.
As of Wednesday, the problem has produced 18 cases in which minor injuries such as abrasions have been reported, Fuse said. Two accidents have been also reported by customers outside Japan, although Toyota has not been able to confirm them, he added.
Cars that are modified will have an electrical signal filter added to the airbag control module. The process is expected to take an hour to hour-and-a-half.
The Toyota recall comes as the company tries to recover from a damaged reputation following a series of recalls between 2009 and 2011 that were related to unintended acceleration problems.
The financial impact from the airbag recall is likely to be limited, possibly costing Toyota about 5 billion yen ($55 million), Koichi Sugimoto, a senior analyst at BNP Paribas in Tokyo, said in a statement.
Toyota may ask suppliers to compensate them, he added.
"While this cannot be ignored, this amount is not going to dent Toyota's operations and share prices are unlikely to be impacted much," he said.
TRW Automotive Holding Corp. manufactured the airbag control unit in the vehicles, although the problematic chip is supplied by another company, an employee at TRW's Toyota offic,e told Reuters. He declined to say where TRW buys the chips from.
In related news, Toyota said it will also recall 385,000 Lexus IS and its series, including 270,000 Lexus IS vehicles in the U.S. over wiper problems, Fuse said.
The wiper arm nut of the front wiper in these vehicles may not be tight enough and the wiper may not work under certain weather occasions, including in snow, he said.
Toyota will exchange the wiper arm nut in repairs that will take about 30 minutes, Fuse added.