A faulty seat belt component prompted Toyota on Tuesday to recall about 19,400 2012 Avalon sedans.
Toyota said in government filings that it discovered a magnet may be missing in either of the front seat belt buckles of the 2012 model full-size sedans. The missing magnet causes a seat occupant sensor that controls the airbag to assume that the seat belt is buckled even if the seat is unoccupied.
Complicating matters for Toyota, the faulty seat belt buckle may or may not have been installed in the vehicles when they were built at the automaker's assembly plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, and it was also available as a service item through Toyota's dealers available to anyone. The part was specific to the 2012 Avalon, however, so Toyota said the recall doesn't include any other model years.
The automotive supplier in Mexico that built the seat belt buckle parts determined that 97 were assembled incorrectly.
Toyota said that it has instructed its dealers to inspect both the driver and front passenger seat belt buckles to determine if they are communicating properly with the occupant sensor that tells the airbag how it should operate. If communication does not occur, Toyota will replace the entire seat belt assembly at no cost to owners.
Toyota said it is not aware of an crashes or injuries related to the faulty seat belt buckle. The automaker will begin alerting owners of affected vehicles later this month.
The 2012 Toyota Avalon sedans covered in the recall were built between Dec. 5, 2011 and Oct. 22, 2012.