Toyota has not ruled out recalling or replacing faulty air intakes of more than 170,000 Hilux, Fortuner and Prado off-roaders that can leave cars with significantly reduced power and without some active safety systems.
An extensive investigation is currently under way to learn more about the issue that can lead to dust getting past the air filter and into the mass airflow sensor (MAF), in turn disabling the stability and traction control systems – also dropping engine power and urging owners to visit a dealer - something vice president of national operations Sean Hanley says could lead to a permanent fix or recall of affected vehicles.
“We’re looking at it, we’re reviewing it again now, to make sure that we’ve covered every possible angle, that there’s no inherent risk to our customers,” says Hanley. “If we do believe that inherent risk exists you can be one-thousand percent certain we will act as quickly as possible to rectify it.”
The concession and ongoing evaluation appears to be a softening of the stance last month when Toyota said it had no plans to recall or repair affected cars.
However, the brand that dominates the off-road segment with cars marketed as “unbreakable” and better suited to rough Australian roads than any other says there are currently no plans to do more than warn customers of the potential issue and clean the air intakes of vehicles that have been driven in dusty conditions.
Despite disabling key safety software, Toyota is confident there is no safety concern to Prados, Hiluxes and Fortuners fitted with the latest 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel.
“If we think and believe there’s any risk we would initiate an immediate recall,” Hanley says, adding safety is “an absolute priority”.
“We’re going through that process, at this stage we have no plan to recall.”
Hanley points to internal data that suggests only 0.2 percent of the 170,000-plus cars have so far experienced the fault.
And, he says, of the 340-odd cars that have been reported to dealerships, most are with mining fleets that drive them in “extreme conditions” with a lot of dust.
“We’re looking at every aspect to determine our future actions but at this stage because of the low incidence and extreme driving it’s not warranting a safety recall,” he says. “We’ll continue to assess that.”
However, any fix to new cars is at least a year away, slotting into the annual scheduled technical updates introduced by the brand, the next of which is due around August 2019.
Toyota Australia’s technical team is currently liaising with engineers in Japan regarding a potential fix, something likely to involve the redesign of the air intake system.
When the fix is implemented on new cars, Toyota says it will evaluate cars “on a case-by-case basis” as to whether the new components will be retrofitted to existing cars.
Owners who regularly drive their cars in very dusty conditions, for example, may have their cars’ air intakes replaced at no cost.
Toyota also said it was open to replacing the intakes of owners planning to drive in dusty conditions.