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Toyota built in Japan

4 months ago I purchased a Highlander. When the recall came about I contacted by Dealer. (Certain Highlanders were on the list). I was told that my vehicle was built in Japan so it’s not subject to recall. What’s different about the part manufacturing in Japan vs. USA?

The Japanese manufactured vehicles use a Nippon-Denso throttle mechanism of a completely different design than the American made vehicles…

The Japan-made has parts made by Denso, and are not subject to recall.

Some of the components in the accelerator pedal and its linkage were made by a US-based firm in the case of US-manufactured Toyotas. Those same components on Japanese-manufactured Toyotas were made by a Japanese company, of different materials. That is the good news.

The bad news is that an absence of recalls on Japanese-manufactured Toyotas should not be interpreted as an absence of a potential problem with those vehicles. In support of that statement, I offer the following factual information:

The president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in recent testimony before a Congressional committee, stated that he “could not guarantee” that the current recall(s) will resolve unintended acceleration issues with Toyota vehicles. When asked if it was possible that electronic issues were at the core of the problem, he said, “I don’t think so”. Those are hardly encouraging words, especially since many independent automotive consultants do believe that there are underlying issues with the proprietary software used on many Toyota models.

In Japan, recalls of any defective product–whether is a contaminated food product or a defective car–are essentially unknown. Consumer Protection is in its infancy in Japan, and the government appears to have a policy of trying to “protect” its native companies at all costs.

So, the absence of a recall on Japanese-manufactured Toyotas (or any other Japanese-manufactured product) should not be interpreted as an absolute indication of safety.

Check the VIN for yourself. For Japan-made cars and trucks, the VIN should begin with a ‘J’. For US-made, the VIN begins with a ‘1’. The throttle mechanism is from different suppliers. The Japan-made cars used a japanese-based supplier, and the US-made cars used a US-based supplier. The recall right now is for the US-Based parts.

All indications are that Toyota and their dealers are working hard to fix all affected vehicles. I don’t think that the dealer would steer you wrong just to get you out the door. Also, according to the Toyota web site the Highlander is only built in Japan, but they will open a plant in Mississippi soon.