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Toyota Recalls All 8,000 Cars of Lexus Model

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Yes, the Japanese are human too.

Evidence that they sometimes make mistakes came Monday, when Toyota announced a voluntary recall of all 8,000 of the Lexus LS 400 luxury cars it has sold since the Lexus line was introduced in September.

Officials at Toyota’s Lexus division said Monday that they had notified the federal government Friday that Toyota is issuing a recall on the cars to make three repairs.

Lexus’ first recall comes at an awkward moment for Toyota--right in the midst of the auto maker’s highly publicized launch of the new luxury car line. Toyota has been promoting Lexus as a car that is as good as a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz--but which costs much less--and has built its advertising around the slogan that Lexus is the product of a “relentless pursuit of perfection.”

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“We are always seeking perfection,” Dave Illingworth, general manager of the Lexus division, said Monday. “I doubt we will ever attain it, but we will always try to get there.” Still, Lexus officials said they are confident that the recall will not have any long-term impact on the car’s reputation, especially since the company has received only a small number of complaints on the defects. The officials added that they believe they will still meet their goal of selling 16,000 cars--both LS 400s and the less expensive ES 250s--in 1989.

“We’ve always said that customer satisfaction is our first priority, and this is an opportunity to prove that,” Lexus spokesman Kurt Von Zumwalt said. “It’s an opportunity we’d rather not have . . . but we are doing this voluntarily. Why wait until the government comes knocking on your door to do something?”

Lexus said the problems were reports of a failure of the cruise control to disengage; warping of the plastic cover around the high-mounted rear brake light, and a poor connection between the alternator and battery, which could cause the battery to run down. The company said its dealers will do the repair work at no charge to the customer.

Lexus said federal auto safety regulators had not been aware of the problems before Lexus notified them. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal agency that oversees auto safety, confirmed that they had not been conducting any investigations on the new car.

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