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Toyota recalling 1.53 million cars globally

TOKYO (AP) - Toyota is recalling 1.53 million Lexus, Avalon and other models, mostly in the U.S. and Japan, for brake fluid and fuel pump problems, the latest in a string of quality problems for the world's No. 1 automaker.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it will call back for repairs about 740,000 cars in the U.S. and 599,000 in Japan. The remainder are in Europe and other markets around the world.

Over the past year, Toyota has recalled more than 10 million cars and trucks worldwide for a variety of problems, from faulty gas pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerators, to braking problems in its Prius hybrid.

In August, Toyota called back 1.33 million Corolla sedans and Matrix hatchbacks in the U.S. and Canada because their engines may stall. The majority of vehicles this time around need to be fixed for a problem with the brake master cylinder, which could lead to weaker braking power, said spokesman Paul Nolasco in Tokyo. Some models in Japan and elsewhere - but not in North America - have an electrical problem with the fuel pump, which could lead the engine to stall, Nolasco said.

No accidents have been reported from the two defects, he said. Ryuichi Saito, auto analyst with Mizuho Investors Securities in Tokyo, said Toyota may have learned a lesson from earlier this year when it faced harsh criticism, particularly in the U.S., for dragging its feet on safety problems and recalls. American regulators hit Toyota with a $16.4 million fine for failing to promptly tell the government about its car defects.

"Toyota's image suffered because it was slow and so it is trying to be quick with its response," Saito said.

The automaker has been working to overhaul its quality controls and respond more aggressively to customer complaints in the fallout from its recall crisis. The models affected by the latest recall in the U.S. include the 2005 and 2006 Avalon, 2004 through 2006 non-hybrid Highlander and Lexus RX330, and 2006 Lexus GS300, IS250, and IS350 vehicles, the company said in a release from its U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California.

The release said a small amount of the brake fluid could slowly leak from the brake master cylinder, resulting in illumination of the brake warning lamp. Toyota will notify owners around the world by mail to come for repairs at no charge, Nolasco said.

The models affected in Japan include the Crown, Crown Majesta, Harrier, Mark X, Alphard, Kluger, Lexus GS350, Lexus IS250, and Lexus IS350. The production date of the models ranges from May 2002 to November 2005. Two models in Japan - the Lexus GS350 and the Crown - are affected by both problems.

In Japan, Toyota's image has taken less of a beating. And despite the safety woes, the Prius has been Japan's top-selling model this year. From January through August, Toyota sold 5.6 million vehicles globally, up 13 percent from a year earlier.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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