DETROIT – The largest recall in Toyota’s 75-year history could undermine the carmaker’s comeback from natural disasters and embarrassing safety problems.
The company 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.
The recall is 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 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 $1.60, or 2.1 percent, to $74.46 Wednesday afternoon.
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. No deaths have occurred.
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. Most fires caused by the window switch were minor, though a Camry was destroyed in one case. Several owners reported that they were afraid to drive their vehicles because of the threat of fires.
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.
Recalled U.S. models include the 2007 to 2009 Camry, Tundra pickup and RAV4 small SUV; the 2007 and 2008 Yaris subcompact; the 2008 and 2009 Sequoia large SUV and Scion xD and xA small cars; the 2008 Highlander SUV; and the 2009 Corolla and Matrix compacts.
The recall covers only the master power window switch on the driver’s side, which controls all four windows. Switches inside the other doors are different, Toyota said.