Toyota says the recall of 40,000 vehicles in New Zealand is precautionary, not because of faults that have caused serious injury.
Some 6.4 million vehicles worldwide are being recalled because of problems in almost 30 models.
Toyota New Zealand says those affected include the RAV4, Prado, Hilux, Yaris, Ractis and other import models built between 2004 and 2013. The company says the faults are minor but it wants to act proactively to make sure no one is hurt.
One problem is a potentially faulty cable that could stop the airbag being deployed; another is defective seat rails, which could break and mean a seat slides forward in a crash.
Toyota New Zealand general manager of customer services Spencer Morris said the company is working to establish how many vehicles here are faulty. He said the company is facing a big task trying to contact the owners.
"Obviously to us the safety of our owners is paramount. We're trying to be as responsible as possible. Yes, if a part fails on a car there's always a slim chance that something serious might go wrong. We just want to make sure that we preclude the possibility of that happening."
The editor of the Dog and Lemon car guide, Clive Matthew-Wilson, has accused the company of compromising on quality in order to keep costs down.
But Mr Morris says that view is overly simplistic, telling Morning Report the company did make mistakes when it grew quickly but the faults are very small and the recall is precautionary.
The Automobile Association says car owners shouldn't panic over the big recall . Motoring advice manager Andrew Bayliss says the faults are minor and unlikely to be putting people at risk.
Motor Industry Association chief executive David Crawford says the owners of the affected models could be hard to find, with vehicles likely to have changed hands maybe two or three times.
"We have other processes in place where we can get hold of the current owners but it's a little bit more complicated because it depends on whether they come in for a warrant of fitness or not and whether we can work through that system."
Consumer New Zealand says the Toyota recall is a blow for the company's reputation of reliability. Research and testing manager Hamish Wilson said Toyota has a reputation has a very reliable brand and the recall could seriously affect that.
Mr Wilson said the company seems to be handling the recall well and has offered to replace any affected parts. Car owners who think they may be affected should check Toyota's website and then get in touch with their nearest dealer.
RECALLS - NEW VEHICLES
- SPIRAL CABLE: In New Zealand, models sold as new and affected by a spiral cable recall are certain RAV4, PRADO and HILUX produced between June 2004 and December 2010. This affects 200,000 vehicles in Oceania, and Toyota New Zealand staff are working to identify every New Zealand vehicle affected. The spiral cable is installed in the steering column to connect steering wheel mounted electrical systems.
- SEAT RAIL: Vehicles sold in New Zealand new and affected are 7506 YARIS produced between January 2005 and August 2010. There is potential for the springs used in the seat locking mechanism to break if the seat is adjusted very frequently. It also affects 6153 imported VITZ, IST, BELTA and RACTIS models.
- STEERING COLUMN BRACKET: 100 YARIS vehicles with tilt/telescopic steering adjustment produced between September 2005 and February 2009 are affected. Some 1037 used imported RACTIS and IST models are also affected.
- DRAIN OUTLET: 993 imported Toyota RACTIS vehicles are affected by a recall relating to possible clogging of drain outlets in the cowl top reinforcement directly under the wiper motor mounting area.
- ENGINE STARTER RECALL: 382 RACTIS vehicles manufactured in 2013 and sold new in Hong Kong are subject to an engine starter recall. It is extremely unlikely any of these vehicles have been imported to New Zealand, but Toyota New Zealand is checking.