• The Associated Press


Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it is recalling 268,000 vehicles in Japan over a faulty engine, the latest in a string of recalls rasing doubts over whether the automaker can maintain quality standards amid booming sales.

The recall affects 268,570 vehicles sold domestically across 12 models manufactured in 2001, including Corollas, the compact cars Vitz and Platz, and the hybrid Prius, the company said in a statement submitted to the transport ministry.

A faulty engine part could lead to an oil leak in the engine and cause it to stop completely, the statement said.

There have been no accidents due to the fault, according to Toyota.

The recall also affects about 150,000 cars sold overseas, mainly in the United States and Canada, Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto said. Those autos were also manufactured in 2001.

In the U.S., 24,490 cars sold under the name Echo and Yaris, as well as 8,476 Prius vehicles, are affected by the recall, she said.

The company will fix an additional 3,232 Toyota and Hino vans manufactured in 2004-2005 whose engines may have a faulty turbine blade, though the fault isn’t serious enough to meet Japan’s recall standards, the company said.

The recall comes after police investigated three Toyota officials on suspicion of professional negligence in allegedly shirking recalls for eight years and not fixing a defect that may have caused an accident.

Five people were injured in a crash in 2004 when steering failed in a 1993 Toyota Hilux Surf sport utility vehicle, causing it to swing out of control. Toyota had received five reports of problems with the steering by 1996, but no recall was made until 2004, the company said.

The investigation was another embarrassment for Toyota, whose once impeccable image has been tarnished by a number of recalls.

Earlier this month, the company recalled 367,500 Toyota and Lexus sport utility vehicles in the U.S. because a piece in the front console area could come loose and interfere with the gas pedal.

Toyota has been reporting booming sales in recent years and is growing so rapidly some analysts expect it to overtake struggling General Motors Corp. of the U.S. as the world’s biggest automaker in coming years.

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