Toyota recall affects 7.43 million vehicles
Faulty window switches may stall carmaker’s rebound
DETROIT – The largest recall in Toyota’s history could undermine the carmaker’s comeback from natural disasters and embarrassing safety problems.
The company on Wednesday recalled 7.43 million cars, trucks and SUVs worldwide to fix faulty power window switches that can cause fires. The recall affects more than a dozen models produced from 2005 through 2010 around the world including the Camry, the top-selling car in the U.S. It’s bigger than the 7 million vehicles recalled two years ago for floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals and cause unintended acceleration.
The problem centers on the power window switch, which is inside the driver’s door and controls when a window is opened or closed. Toyota said grease wasn’t applied evenly to the switch during production, causing friction and sometimes smoke and fire.
The flaw raises questions about whether Toyota Motor Corp. has solved quality and safety issues that embarrassed the company in 2009 and 2010. It also could jeopardize Toyota’s impressive rebound from last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Those disasters hobbled factories and left dealers short of models to sell.
The Toyota recall “takes some of the sheen off its recovering brand image and should have a financial impact,” Standard & Poor’s analyst Efraim Levy wrote in a note to investors. Toyota’s U.S. shares fell $1.56, or 2.1 percent, to $74.50 Wednesday.
Toyota said initially the window switch problem hasn’t caused any crashes or injuries. But documents filed by U.S. safety regulators show customers have reported 161 fires and nine injuries.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began looking into window switch problems with two Toyota models in February after noticing a higher than normal number of complaints. Several owners reported that they were afraid to drive their vehicles because of the threat of fires. NHTSA said Wednesday the investigation remains open pending a review of recall documents.
Toyota said it has received more than 200 complaints about the switches in the U.S., and more from other countries including 39 in Japan. Most of the complaints were about a sticky feel to the switches while pushing the button to move the window up or down, but there also were complaints of the smell of smoke, company spokesman John Hanson said.
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