Toyota is recalling 196,222 Sienna vans from the 2004 through 2006 model years to repair the struts which hold up the power-assisted liftgate. Those struts can fail, causing the gate to power its way shut, injuring anyone hit by the closing door.
Image conscious Toyota, with the approval of the National highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is describing the recall as a "Safety Improvement Campaign" in a public relations effort by the Japanese automaker not to further sully a deteriorating reputation for quality control.
The gas struts used to lift and support the the rear power liftgate "could wear out sooner than expected," according to the "Safety Improvement Campaign" notice published by NHTSA.
"As the gas struts deteriorate, the performance of the liftgate will begin to degrade and the power rear liftgate will operate more slowly than when the gas struts were new," according to NHTSA.
The safety agency warns that worn struts may not be able to support the weight of the liftgate when it is open and the door could fall "about 10 inches after it reaches the fully opened position at which point the power motor will engage and power the liftgate to the fully closed position," perhaps injuring anyone struck by the closing door.
Toyota dealers will replace the gas struts during the "Safety Improvement Campaign" with struts the automaker said will have a longer service life.
Toyota has not announced when it will contact Sienna owners about the liftgate recall but owners may contact Toyota at 1-888-270-9371.
NHTSA reported on its Web site that "this action is deemed a safety improvement campaign and is not being conducted under the safety act. However, Toyota has informed NHTSA that it will provide the modifications described free of charge."