Toyota has no plans “at this stage” to recall its top-selling HiLux utility to fix an engine fault that can cut the power and disable safety features.
Instead it says owners will have to wait at least another 12 months for a redesign of the faulty air inlet in the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine that powers the HiLux, which is Australia’s No.1-selling vehicle, and the popular Prado and Fortuner SUVs.
By then more than 200,000 examples of these off-road-oriented 4x4s will be on Australian roads, all of them susceptible to the fault which is triggered by driving in extremely dusty conditions.
Toyota Australia’s sales and marketing chief Sean Hanley confirmed to The New Daily an investigation into the fault is currently being conducted by the company and its Japanese parent.
“You can be 1000 per cent sure we are looking at every detail, every safety aspect,” Mr Hanley said.
“If we think there is any risk we would initiate a recall.
“We are going though that process and at this stage we have no plan for a recall.”
As reported by The New Daily last month, the design fault allows micro-sized dust particles to leak past the air filter and contaminate the readings of what’s called the mass air flow sensor (or MAF), which determines the engine’s correct fuel-air ratio. The engine then goes into limp mode, turns off stability and traction control, and instructs the driver to go to a Toyota dealer for a fix.
While Toyota Australia, which advertises the HiLux as ‘unbreakable’, issued service bulletins about the fault to dealers as far back as March 2017, it is only publicly acknowledging it now because a $64,000 HiLux Rugged X press vehicle went into ‘limp mode’ four times during an automotive website test.
Mr Hanley confirmed that Toyota had been able to replicate the issue in its own testing, but argued the fact limp home mode enabled the vehicle to be driven eliminated the need for a recall.
Toyota also claims less than 0.2 per cent of vehicles sold in Australia fitted with this engine – or about 340 examples – have so far reported the problem, most of those in mining fleets.
“It’s a condition we are aware of in certain driving conditions,” Mr Hanley said.
“The car goes into limp mode, which in my understanding still allows you to travel at up to 100km/h, so it’s designed to do that.
“When you have a look at the rate of incidence, it’s very low actually.
“We also now do have in place procedures to advise customers who are going into what we call extreme conditions on how to deal with this matter and how to reduce the incidence even further.”
Essentially, the current fix is to have the MAF sensor cleaned using compressed air and to have the air filter serviced every 5000km, or twice as often as usually recommended. If the vehicle is using an air snorkel, Toyota recommends its mouth is turned backwards in dusty conditions.
But the fundamental solution is a redesign of the air inlet system to stop it leaking. That project is under way at Toyota in Japan and has yet to be scheduled for introduction.
Toyota annually updates the HiLux around this time of year, which means August 2019 is the earliest a fix could be in place. A spokesman confirmed that was the best possible timing. A retro-fit could be offered to owners who requested the new part, the spokesman added.
The New Daily contacted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities about the issue. Both confirmed they were not investigating it.