The world’s largest car-maker said it has started shipping parts to repair flawed gas pedals in a growing number of recalled vehicles.

But the Japanese-based manufacturer said Thursday it does not know when drivers affected by the recalls will be able to have their Toyota vehicles fixed. It also did not say where the parts are being shipped to.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s production problems deepened on Thursday as it expanded its recall of faulty accelerators and floor mats to Europe and China.

The company said it’s still unsure how many vehicles in Europe are affected, but said it has brought in new parts so that production in Europe will continue as usual.

That’s in contrast to Canada and the U.S., where both production and sales of new vehicles has been halted for at least a week, while the carmaker works to fix the gas-pedal problem.

In China, Toyota will start a recall in February for 75,500 RAV4 SUVs manufactured there between March 2009 and January 2010. Those vehicles have the same faulty accelerator parts that have caused the recent recalls in Canada and the U.S.

Also in China, Ford said it has halted production of some of its full-sized commercial vehicles, because they also contain the same gas pedals. Ford said the diesel version of its Transit Classic, built under a Chinese joint venture, is the only Ford vehicle involved in the production halt. The Transit Classics are not being recalled.

The announcements Thursday come one day after the company announced an additional recall of 1.09 million vehicles in the U.S. covering five models:

  • 2008-2010 Highlander
  • 2009-2010 Corolla
  • 2009-2010 Venza
  • 2009-2010 Matrix
  • 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe (both the Matrix and the Vibe were joint ventures between Toyota and General Motors)

That’s on top of the recall issued last week affecting eight models, including 270,000 vehicles in Canada and 2.3 million in the U.S. That recall included Toyota's:

  • 2009-2010 RAV4, Corolla and Matrix
  • 2005-2010 Avalon
  • 2010 Highlander
  • 2007-2010 Tundra
  • 2008-2010 Sequoia
  • some 2007-2010 Camry models

And all of this week’s recalls come on top of a recall in late 2009 involving 4.2 million vehicles over concerns that floor mats could bend across gas pedals, causing sudden acceleration.

Some of the vehicles in this month’s recall were already included in the original 4.2 million vehicle recall. Altogether, Toyota has recalled nearly 7 million vehicles across its lineup.

Bernie Wolf, an expert from the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, said the recall is “staggering” in terms of its scope.

Wolf added that other automakers, like GM, will attempt to use the recall as a means to chip away at Toyota’s market share.

In fact, GM in the U.S. is offering $1,000 incentives and low financing rates specifically for Toyota customers worried about their recalled vehicles.

Considering that Toyota has built their business on the quality and durability of their products, the recall will tarnish their reputation, he said.

“This is going to be tough sledding for a while,” Wolf told CTV News Channel Thursday. “But in the long term, I think they will overcome that.”

Wolf noted that the company is taking full responsibility for the problems and is attempting to show consumers that safety is the top priority.

Toyota initially thought the problems it had been hearing about since 2007 were caused by floor mats jamming up against the vehicles’ accelerator pedals.

But Toyota then began receiving reports of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms in vehicles that didn't have the floor mats installed. There are now concerns that the accelerator pedal itself may be the cause of some problems.

Faulty part made in Ontario

The faulty gas pedal, which has a tendency to stick over time, was manufactured in a plant in Mississauga, Ont., owned by Toyota supplier CTS Corp., Toyota says.

CTS Corp., based in the U.S., says it knows of only a few cases of drivers having problems with accelerators. But the company said Thursday it has already designed a new pedal to replace the faulty one.

CTS, which has more than 5,000 employees, says it now expects to ramp up production at its plants to meet demand for the redesigned accelerator pedal.

The company's CEO, Vinod Khilnani, says his firm is putting additional production lines in place to be able to replace the faulty pedals as quickly as possible.

Even as fixes are brought into place, the effects on Toyota continue to snowball.

A number of U.S. car rental companies announced this week they are pulling thousands of Toyotas from their fleets because of the recalls.

Meanwhile, shares of Toyota -- whose earnings only recently returned to the black -- have been hit hard.

Toyota insists that the problem being reported with accelerator pedals and floor mats are rare.

“They are absolutely safe to drive,” Toyota spokeswoman Sandy de Felice told CTV Toronto. “It’s a very gradual condition that occurs over long usage of your driving in the vehicle.”

“We remain absolutely confident in our product and in our brand.”

The company says that customers who are concerned that their vehicle may be affected should contact customer service now, before recall instructions are issued.

The Toyota Customer Care Hotline is: 1-800-331-4331. Toyota also has a "Customer Interaction Centre" at 1-888-TOYOTA-8 (1-888-869-6828)

With files from The Associated Press