Toyota is voluntarily recalling more than seven million vehicles worldwide, including some Yaris, Corolla and Camry models, over faulty electric window switches, the BBC reported on 10 October. It is, noted the BBC, the biggest single recall since Ford recalled eight million vehicles in 1996 over Bridgestone tyres fitted to its Explorer SUV, and it is likely to be a particularly unwelcome event for Toyota, which has re-emphasised its focus on quality since its large-scale 2009 recall involving sticky accelerator pedals.
The recall is said to affect 1.39 million cars in Europe – including 138,000 in the UK, 2.47 million in the US and 1.4 million in China. It also affects 459,000 vehicles in Japan, and 650,000 in Australia and Asian markets, as well as hundreds of thousands across the Middle East and in Canada.
Toyota says no accidents, injuries or deaths have been reported as a result of the problem. The driver’s side power window master switch may experience a ‘notchy’ or sticky feel during operation, advised Toyota’s US sales company. If commercially available lubricants are applied to the switch in an attempt to address the sticky feel, melting of the switch assembly or smoke could occur and lead to a fire under some circumstances, Toyota warned.
The OEM notes that in the US, all issues of melting or erosion are categorised under ‘fire’ by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It goes on to add that its own engineers have conducted various simulation tests, including using commercially available lubricants, and in no instance did a fire result.
Toyota says the ‘notchy’ or sticky feel may be caused by an uneven application of the grease during the switch assembly process at its (unnamed) supplier. If the grease is not applied evenly, frequent use of the switch and normal operation may cause the grease to become carbonised and may eventually result in the deterioration of its lubricating properties.
The recall remedy will involve an inspection, switch disassembly, and application of special fluorine grease. The switch inspection and repair will be performed at no charge to the vehicle owner, and is expected to take about one hour’s work.
The range of Toyota vehicles affected worldwide include certain models of the Yaris, Vios, Corolla, Matrix, Auris, Camry, RAV4, Highlander, Tundra, Sequoia, xB and xD produced between 2005 and 2010. In the US market, the recall will cover the following models:
• 2007 to 2008 Yaris (110,300)
• 2007 to 2009 RAV4 (336,400)
• 2007 to 2009 Tundra (337,100)
• 2007 to 2009 Camry (938,100)
• 2007 to 2009 Camry Hybrid (116,800)
• 2008 to 2009 Scion xD (34,400)
• 2008 to 2009 Scion xA (77,500)
• 2008 to 2009 Sequoia (38,500)
• 2008 Highlander (135,400)
• 2008 Highlander Hybrid (23,200)
• 2009 Corolla (270,900)
• 2009 Matrix (53,800).
“Recalls in the automotive sector are not rare events, but the size and scale of this particular recall is unusual. Toyota faced heavy public scrutiny for the way it handled recalls in 2009-10, culminating in a record fine of US$16.4m from the US Transportation Department. Toyota’s approach this time around is perhaps indicative of an increasingly ‘belt and braces’ approach to managing risk. It clearly recognises the benefits of proactive communications with its customer base where its reputation is at stake,” commented Richard Heatthews, Head of Product Liability at international law firm Eversheds