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Toyota Pulls Over 6 Million Vehicles Worldwide


Another major auto recall today, this time it's Toyota. The Japanese auto giant is recalling 6.4 million vehicles worldwide for a variety of defects, including problems with seat rails and airbags. No injuries have been reported. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports this particular recall is not happening in a vacuum.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Less than a month ago, Toyota was hit with a $1.2 billion fine for the way it handled a recall mess from several years ago. Right now, General Motors has been embroiled in a scandal for how it handled a decade-old problem. Alec Gutierrez is with KBB.com. He says Toyota is noticing and this most recent recall is kind of a corporate sleight of hand.

ALEC GUTIERREZ: So much attention is being given to GM at the moment, you might as well just get all of your skeletons out of the closet so that you can get them repaired and move on as a company.

GLINTON: Now, a Toyota spokesman says this recall has, quote, "zero to with GM or the recent fines." The company is recalling nearly 2 million vehicles in the U.S. alone and the company says that's to be more responsive to potential problems. Chris Malone is a brand consultant. He studied Toyota's recall in 2010 for problems with unintended acceleration.

CHRIS MALONE: 93 percent of U.S. adults said that, you know, these recalls are a moment of truth where you really get to find out what companies care about, more about their customers or their profits.

GLINTON: Malone says consumers aren't looking for if a car is recalled, but how a company handles it.

MALONE: And if they handle those recalls honorably and responsibly, 87 percent said they would actually become more loyal to a company. So in that regard, it's a big opportunity despite it's going to be very painful and unpleasant for several months if you embrace it in the right way.

GLINTON: Alec Gutierrez with KBB.com says recalls like Toyota's are an expensive proposition, but...

GUTIERREZ: It's quite interesting because while the manufacturer will have to write a check to get these vehicles repaired and fixed in a timely fashion, consumers don't seem to change their perception or their purchase behavior in the long run.

GLINTON: Car companies are becoming more global with more interchangeable parts and they're becoming more sensitive to consumer perceptions so we're likely to see more recalls with bigger numbers. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.