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Business

Toyota recalls 2.9 million SUVs over seatbelt defect

The decision follows reports that car collisions were slicing seatbelts in its popular models. Embroiled in its own recall scandal, airbag-maker Takata has denied plans to close plants in Europe.

The Japanese auto maker announced Thursday a global recall of nearly 2.9 million of its RAV4 and Vanguard sport utility vehicles due to a seatbelt issue.

In an email, Toyota said it was possible that second-row window seat belts could be cut by contact with a metal seat cushion frame in the event of a severe frontal crash. "If this occurs, the seatbelt may not properly restrain the occupant, which could increase the risk of injury," the email read.

The seatbelt issue was raised after two recent reports from the US and Canada - the latter involving a fatality - claimed that this seatbelt was cut during a crash.

A spokeswoman from Toyota acknowledged receiving the reports, but added that it hadn't yet been determined if the defect was to blame.

The company will now add plastic covers to the frame for no cost.

The recall concerns 1.1 million vehicles in the US, 625,000 vehicles in Europe (including 71,000 in Germany), 434,000 vehicles in China and 177,000 vehicles in Japan.

Takata denies plant closures

Meanwhile, Japanese airbag producer Takata has been reported to be mulling closing plants in Europe and cutting jobs worldwide in a restructuring plan. This follows a damaging saga set off by millions of its airbags with faulty inflators.

A spokeswoman in Tokyo, however, denied this plan, German news agency DPA reported on Thursday. She added that when decisions were met, "we will report them promptly."

Carmakers have had to recall more than 50 million vehicles with Takata airbags worldwide since 2008. US lawmakers are now urging a total recall of vehicles with Takata airbags in the country, where a ninth fatality connected with the defect was reported last month.

Takata also denied recent reports stating that its president, Shigehisa Takada, would step down.

Takata operates 20 branches and factories in Europe, 11 of which are in Germany.

jtm/uhe (AFP, AP, dpa)

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