Today it was revealed that 3.4 million Japanese cars are to be recalled over a potentially defective passenger airbag.

And although four manufacturers are affected, it is once again Toyota in the centre of the media's crosshairs. Yes, more Toyotas are affected (1.73m) than Hondas (1.13m), Nissans (480,000) and Mazdas (45,000), but that's hardly surprising given Toyota is the world's biggest car maker.

This recall represents just 2.5 per cent of Toyota's entire production over the last ten years.

Besides the scale of the recall, Toyota has – unfairly – become synonymous with recalls over the last few years. The Prius braking recall was due to the way the car's stoppers switch from electric to hydraulic pressure, sometimes exhibiting a slight delay in certain situations, such as driving on ice. Toyota recalled the cars, recalibrated the braking, and the perceived problem went away.

At the same time, a number of American buyers reported their mats sliding over the brake pedals. Toyota uses different mats in different markets, and the problem was likely exacerbated by the use of rubber mats on top of the OEM units. And that's entirely out of Toyota's control.

Nevertheless, whenever a car is brought to Toyota for servicing with mats that could cause problems, they are removed, placed in the boot and the owner is informed of the risk.

That's typical of Toyota's transparency in these matters. Toyota has made a virtue of a potential PR disasters, and should be commended.

The fact is that while the headline recall number is huge, the number of cars that could display the specified "abnormality" in passenger airbag deployment is very small. Toyota is able to track down the chassis number of every car that has the offending airbag unit involved, but the potential fault has been traced to a sub part – which is far harder to pin down.

By any measure, this is tackling a tiny number of potential problems in a responsible way. This isn't a situation peculiar to Toyota. Nissan, Mazda and Honda will all behave in precisely the same way.

Around 1m cars are recalled in the UK annually, and there are plenty with far more serious potential faults than this. In fact, many cars leave service centres with advisories listed, which could expose the driver, occupants and other road users to far greater risk than a hypothetical component fault.

To bring these numbers into context, Toyota has investigated five reported faults. No injuries have occurred, and there are no reported instances in Europe. 

Recalls should be treated as positive action, and not be used as a stick to beat car makers with.