Toyota's flagship all-electric vehicle will be back on the road shortly, following a four-month-long recall involving faulty wheel hubs.
Replacing the wheels and hub bolts will remedy the problem, and current owners will be able to have their vehicles fixed starting next month.
The company disclosed that an additional airbag deployment issue was found on certain bZ4X models, though North American models are unaffected.
Toyota and Subaru made simultaneous milestones earlier this year by launching a jointly developed all-electric vehicle. Toyota's bZ4X and Subaru's Solterra were each company's first BEV, launched in May, but an engineering disaster struck. Both models were quickly recalled in June due to concern that the wheels might fall off due to an improperly designed hub.
Four months later, Toyota has now come up with a solution, and the car is set to resume production shortly. A statement from Toyota said replacing the hub bolts and washer is a significant portion of the fix, though the wheels will need to be replaced as well. The company is gathering the necessary parts and will be ready to offer the remedy next month at no cost. This is good news for current bZ4X owners, whose vehicles will be first in line for the fix, and for the future of EVs coming out of Aichi. Subaru's Solterra will likely be included in this remedy, given that the cars are built on the same platform, but Subaru has yet to confirm this.
During the recall process, Toyota also discovered a fault with certain airbags, though US market cars are unaffected. Incorrect installation of airbags at the factory meant a strap inside the airbag assembly could potential injure vehicle occupants when deployed. Toyota's chief technology officer, Masahiko Maeda, said the airbag problem was discovered within the past two months, according to Reuters. Cars outside of the North American market are under an additional recall for the airbags at this time.
Both Subaru and Toyota had to recall around 5300 units in June and said the cars shouldn't be driven under any circumstances at that time. As a result, Toyota had previously offered a package of additional benefits to affected owners (including $5000 in loan forgiveness or cash credit, a loaner vehicle, and a significantly extended warranty) or to buy back the car from owners. It's not immediately clear if the buyback program is still in effect, though a representative for Toyota has said the loaner car option and accompanying benefits remain available until the problem is remedied.
While this recall saga has likely damaged the brand, these EVs should be back on the road soon. Toyota's tempered approach to battery-electric vehicles has faced criticism for its lack of urgency, though Toyota has emphasized the importance of continuing to offer a wide range of ICE, hybrid, and BEV models for its broad base of consumers. Toyota also plans to electrify its high-end SUV offerings. Nonetheless, it's set to be an uphill battle to convince consumers about the reliability of the bZ4X.
How long do you think it will take Toyota to overcome this mishandled launch? Will it prevent Toyota from becoming a leader in battery-electric vehicles? Please comment below.