Toyota has been forced to recall 2,700 of its first electric vehicles because of concerns the wheels could fall off, in a blow to the world’s largest carmaker’s belated attempt to launch a battery-only car.
The global recall affects the Japanese manufacturer’s bZ4X sports utility vehicle, its first effort at a pure battery electric vehicle (EV), after the manufacturer found a problem with the bolts that connect the wheels to the chassis. It is investigating whether the components need to be replaced.
“Until the remedy is available, no one should drive these vehicles,” the company said in a statement.
Toyota has been the world’s largest carmaker by sales for the last two years, ahead of Volkswagen. However, unlike its German rival it has not embraced all-electric technology to the same extent, aiming instead to keep producing orthodox fossil fuel vehicles as well as hybrid electric vehicles that combine a battery with an internal combustion engine.
The company argues that more customers will be able to buy hybrid vehicles until the network of electric chargers improves, while still achieving cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. EVs, and possibly some driven by hydrogen fuel cells, will then allow it to go “beyond zero”, hence the “bz” in its first electric car’s name. However, Toyota faces pressure to provide models for markets such as the UK that will ban all new internal combustion engines after 2035, despite lobbying by Toyota and others.
Its different strategy makes it a conspicuous outlier among the large carmakers, who were spurred into investing in electric car production by the dieselgate scandal, and Tesla, the US carmaker run by Elon Musk, which pioneered building battery cars at scale.
Toyota said in December it would spend $35bn (£28bn) on developing its own EVs, with an aim of making 30 models available by 2030 and quickly catching up with rivals as sales of electric vehicles soar in some of the world’s key markets.
Electric cars are much more mechanically simple than those with internal combustion engines, and so are likely to require fewer visits to mechanics over their lifetime. However, they also tend to be heavier because of the dense batteries.
Christian Stadler, a professor of strategic management at Warwick business school, said: “Toyota can count itself lucky that this recall has nothing to do with the electrical capability of the car. That would have been far more damaging, given that the bZ4X is the company’s first mass-produced all-electric vehicle.”