SHANGHAI -- While Toyota's recall crisis has reached nightmare proportions in America, the extent of the problem in China has been much more limited, thanks mainly to the much smaller number of vehicles affected.
But that does not mean, in Chinese eyes, the brand has escaped the episode unblemished. If the Japanese automaker wants to prevent further damage in the world's biggest car market, there is much that it needs to do.
To start with numbers: the total number of vehicles recalled by Toyota in China so far has been 75,552, less than 1 percent of the total of 8.5 million vehicles called back worldwide.
They have all been of the same RAV4 SUV model. And that's because this relatively low selling vehicle for Toyota in China has been the only one fitted with the same faulty floor mats or sticky gas pedals plaguing the company in the United States.
Other affected models are not sold in China. Or, built locally, use parts from different component makers to those supplying Toyota's production in America.
Yet obviously, the damage to Toyota in China from a global problem has not been inflicted solely by domestic recalls. With Chinese consumers closely watching the saga's escalation across the Pacific, their perception of the Japanese brand can only be deteriorating.
According to a survey conducted by market researcher TNS Automotive earlier this month, 74 percent of Chinese car drivers are aware of Toyota's present trouble in the U.S. Nearly two out of three respondents acknowledged their confidence in the Japanese car maker has been affected.
Toyota's total China car sales last year were up 121 percent, to 709,000, on 2008. But the company's breakneck expansion over the past few years has come against a backdrop of frequently hostile coverage of vehicles like the RAV4 in the Chinese media. Clearly, Toyota has not been doing enough to address such coverage.
To sustain such high growth Toyota needs to tighten its grip on quality control. Otherwise, the likelihood is that the more it sells, the more defects will appear in its cars.
That could deal heavy blow to the Japanese brand in a market that has so far been a bright spot in a sea of global woes.