Toyota Issues Global Recall

Tokyo: Toyota Motor Corp. 7203.TO -1.90% said Wednesday it is recalling 7.43 million vehicles globally, including 2.47 million cars and light trucks sold in the U.S., due to a potential fire hazard involving power-window switches, a glitch on a world-wide scale that evokes the company’s much-publicized quality woes of two years ago.

The recall affects cars made between July 2005 and May 2010—including the Cay, Corolla and RAV4 SUV models—sold in Japan, North America, Europe, China, the Middle East, and Oceania, the company said.

Japan’s biggest auto maker called it the largest recall ever for a single part, although it is second to the 7.7 million vehicles Toyota recalled around the world in 2009 and 2010 targeting floor mats. The company maintains that wasn’t technically a recall in some markets, but rather a “safety campaign.”

The latest recall comes as Toyota’s sales in the U.S. have begun to recover from the black eye it received after being slow to recall more than 5 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix loose floor mats, and 2.2 million cars and light trucks for accelerator pedal upgrades. Altogether, the company was forced to recall about 11 million vehicles world-wide for those issues.

It adds to the auto maker’s difficulties as it and other Japanese car companies struggle with a de facto boycott of their vehicles in China, the world’s largest auto market, as a result of strained political relations between Beijing and Tokyo.

Toyota, which said it knows of no accidents or deaths stemming from the faulty parts, blamed sticky power window control-switch circuitry on the driver’s seat-door panel, which can melt if lubricants are misapplied.

“As far as we know, there have been no reports of accidents as a result of this. We’re taking it as a protective measure,” a company spokesman said.

In an indication of the perils of relying on single suppliers for certain parts, which can reduce production costs thanks to larger volumes, Toyota said the flawed switch came from one global parts maker, which it declined to identify.

The auto maker didn’t provide cost estimates for the recall. Last year, it pegged the total cost incurred in 2010 from recalls related to accelerator pedals, floor mats and Prius model ABS brakes at ¥170 billion-¥180 billion ($2.17 billion-$2.30 billion).

The Toyota City-based car maker said it first became aware of the latest issue in September 2008, but was unable to determine the cause until now. The recall doesn’t affect any vehicles made after 2010 because of production process changes unrelated to the internal probe, it said.

After the U.S., China is the biggest market for the recall, with 1.4 million vehicles, followed by Europe at 1.39 million, the company said.

Vehicles affected by the recall include the Corolla-twin Matrix, the Vitz and Yaris subcompacts, the Scion xA and xD models, the Highlander and Sequoia SUVs and the Tundra pickup truck.

In trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Wednesday, Toyota’s shares fell 1.9% to ¥2,943.

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