Massive worldwide Toyota recall affects 7.4 million vehicles
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012 6:39AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2012 7:28PM EDT
Toyota has issued a massive recall of 7.4 million cars, trucks and SUVs stemming from a faulty power-window switch that runs the risk of catching on fire.
The voluntary recall, announced Wednesday, is the largest in the company’s 75-year history.
In Canada, the recalled models include:
- Yaris, 2007-08 models
- Corolla, 2009 models
- Matrix, 2009 models
- Camry, 2007-09 models
- Camry Hybrid, 2007-09 models
- RAV 4, 2007-2009 models
- Highlander, 2008 models
- Highland Hybrid, 2008 models
- Sequoia, 2008-09 models
- Tundra, 2007-09 models
The company said an issue during the production of vehicles led to an uneven application of grease on the switch, which causes friction and runs the risk of smoke and fire.
Toyota said it quickly identified all the models using the problem switches and took action. "We want to make sure that we addressed this issue quickly and effectively, and I think we are doing that with this recall," said company spokesperson John Hanson told The Associated Press.
Initially, Toyota said the window 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. No deaths have occurred.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began looking into the window problems with two Toyota models in February after noticing a higher than normal number of complaints. Most fires caused by the window switch were minor, although a Camry was destroyed in one case. Several owners reported that they were afraid to drive their vehicles because of the threat of fires.
One auto expert said the massive worldwide recall hurts the Japanese automaker’s image as it continues to repair the damage caused by a string of recent massive recalls.
Tony Faria, the co-director of the University of Windsor’s Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research, said the problems were first noticed by Toyota in 2008.
“Early on there were few reports so there was no big concern on the part of Toyota or anyone else,” Faria told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
While Toyota has implemented a thorough response to what can be perceived as a small problem, Faria said the company’s reaction to the power window switch issue could signal a sensitivity regarding recalls.
Pointing to Toyota’s 2009/2010 recalls that stemmed from a sudden unintended acceleration issue in several models, which led to a global recall of 10 to 12 million vehicles worldwide, Faria said the company is trying to be very careful.
“Beyond the bad publicity were the accusations that Toyota moved way too slow in initiating an investigation into the (sudden acceleration) problem and starting a recall,” he said. “Toyota certainly has been much more sensitive in reacting faster now to any issue that may arise.”
Prior to the massive recall of 2009/2010, Toyota had boasted a reputation for top-notch quality, centred around its production methods that empowered workers to hone in on quality control. Toyota executives have since acknowledged that the escalating recalls were partly caused by the company's overly ambitious growth goals.
Faria said the recall is likely to garner a lot of attention for the Toyota, which was crowned the world’ top-sell automakers in the first half of 2012.
“Any recall is a problem for the company, and the bigger the recall the bigger the problem,” he said. “In the minds of a lot of consumers it will be another indication that Toyota is not as important as it is perceived to be.”
However, Faria added that the power-windows issue is not as serious as past recalls.
“It will probably solidify in some consumers’ minds why they don’t want to buy a Toyota. Maybe they’ll loss some Toyota customers. But it should not be a serious issue for Toyota.”
Meanwhile, the company is also suffering from a drop in sales in China where car buyers are shunning Japanese brands because of a land dispute over islands claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.
Toyota said those affected by the recall will receive a notification later this month.
With files from The Associated Press