A recovery for Japan's carmakers in the world's largest vehicle market hit a snag yesterday when Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda recalled 32,572 vehicles in China.
But that is just a fraction of at least 3 million vehicles that the four companies are recalling worldwide due to defective airbags made by Takata - the world's second-largest supplier of airbags and seat belts.
The recall could curb what had been reviving sales of Japanese vehicles on the mainland. They had plummeted after a territorial dispute between the two countries over the Diaoyu Islands, called the Senkakus in Japan, triggered a boycott of Japanese goods last August.
According to figures released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers yesterday, sales of Japanese vehicles rose 70 per cent in March, compared with the previous month, despite a drop in year-on-year sales.
Toyota has to recall 1.73 million vehicles and Honda about 1.14 million worldwide. Nissan will recall 137,000 cars in Japan and Mazda 24,465 in China. Affected models include Toyota's Corolla, Vios, Camry, Picnic, Lexus SC430; Honda's Civic, Stream and CR-V; Nissan's Sunny, X-trail and Patrol; and the Mazda 6 made between 2000 and 2004.
The mainland's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said the airbags might not inflate properly in an accident and were at risk of catching fire or injuring passengers due to a fault in a propellant.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan said there were no reports of injuries or death, although Toyota said there were five reports of malfunctioning airbags.
It's the second-largest recall for Toyota after it recalled 7.45 million vehicles in October over a faulty power-window switch. Quality problems have plagued Toyota and caused it huge losses in recent years. Almost all of their major models have been involved in recalls in each of the past four years.
Major carmakers increasingly rely on a handful of suppliers for components.
Meanwhile, China's passenger-vehicle sales rose 13 per cent year-on-year to 1.59 million in March, boosting first-quarter sales 13 per cent to 5.42 million vehicles. SUVs are the fastest-growing sector.