Toyota Recalls Nearly 3 Million RAV4s Over Seat Belt Separation

TOKYO — Toyota recalled nearly three million RAV4 sport utility vehicles worldwide on Thursday, saying their rear seatbelts could be severed in a severe crash, leaving passengers unprotected.

The fault is suspected in the separation of seatbelts in two crashes, one of which killed a passenger.

Toyota said that it could not confirm whether the seatbelt failure had caused the fatality, which occurred in a crash in Canada, but that it was recalling the vehicles as a precaution. The other crash was in the United States.

Just under half of the 2.87 million vehicles affected by the recall are in North America, Toyota’s largest market. The recall also covers Japan, Europe, China and other regions.

The vehicles were produced between 2005 and 2014 in all markets except Japan, where the recall affects models as recent as 2016.

Toyota said it had traced the problem to its design of metal seat-cushion frames in the S.U.V.’s rear seats. In a severe frontal crash, it said, the frames could slice through the belts, leaving passengers unrestrained.

It said that the seatbelts themselves were safe and that the problem was not caused by a supplier. That is a contrast to another recent problem involving auto safety devices, the extensive recall of vehicles equipped with defective airbags produced by the Japanese manufacturer Takata.

Toyota said its dealers would fix the problem in the RAV4s by adding resin covers to the metal seat-cushion frames. That will take 30 minutes to 60 minutes per vehicle.

“The condition does not occur in other vehicles, because the shape of the metal seat-cushion frame is different,” Toyota added.

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