Toyota, Subaru recall EVs because tires might literally fall off

The Register - Mon Jun 27 16:54

Toyota and Subaru are recalling several thousand electric vehicles that might spontaneously shed tires due to self-loosening hub bolts. 

Toyota issued the recall last week for 2023 bZ4X all-electric SUVs, 2,700 of which are affected, the automaker said. Subaru is recalling all-electric Solterras, which were developed jointly with Toyota and have the same issue, Reuters reported.

Japan's auto safety regulating body said "sharp turns and sudden braking could cause a hub bolt to loosen," Reuters said, though it's unknown if any actual accidents have been caused by the defect. In its recall notice, Toyota said "all of the hub bolts" can loosen "after low-mileage use," but said it was still investigating the cause of, and driving conditions that can lead to, the issue. 

Of the approximately 2,700 vehicles affected by the recall, 2,200 went to Europe, 260 to the US, 10 to Canada and 110 stayed in Japan. Subaru is recalling approximately 2,600 Solterras. Toyota said all owners should park affected vehicles until the issue is remedied. "Until remedy is available, any authorized Toyota dealer will pick up the vehicle and provide a loaner free of charge," Toyota said. 

The bZ4X was supposed to be Toyota's grand reentry into the EV market, which it left in 2014 when it discontinued the RAV4 EV. Toyota president Akio Toyoda said the company planned to have 30 BEV models (the bZ4X is the first of the line) available by 2030. As it's only been out for two months, a bZ4X recall this early could be bad news for the auto maker.

David Legget, automotive editor at GlobalData, told CNBC the recall will be a disappointment for Toyota, which has been under pressure to move further into the EV market. Legget said there could be a bright side, though: The recall was mechanical in nature and has "nothing to do with the car's electric powertrain," which he said could benefit Toyota if fixed quickly.

Toyota's latest projects appear to embrace an electric future that goes beyond vehicles. Its recently announced home batteries made from recycled EV batteries recently rolled out in Japan and aim to compete with Tesla, Ford and Hyundai, each of which has developed a similar product. 

In addition, Toyota has also been working with Redwood materials, founded by former Tesla CTO JB Straubel, to develop closed-loop battery manufacturing that would recycle as much material from end-of-life batteries into new Toyota power supplies as possible. 

The chip shortage has slowed Toyota's assembly lines as of late, with shutdowns happening at plants across Japan. The bZ4X production line was scheduled to suspend activity in May along with 15 other production lines. The bZ4X's line is one of only four scheduled for reduced output this coming July. 

At the time of writing, Toyota estimated it will produce 50,000 fewer vehicles than initially planned in 2022. We are awaiting further comment from both auto manufacturers. ®