On October 10, Toyota Motor Corporation announced the recall of 7.43 million vehicles worldwide to repair faulty power window switches that it had previously claimed presented no safety risk. The announcement follows six months’ of investigation into the problem the automaker had consistently downplayed.
On April 5, Toyota told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it had investigated the matter and “”Based on this review, Toyota believes that no defect trend is evident and no unreasonable risk to safety is presented.” The problem, Toyota asserted, was the fault of service people who had applied the wrong lubricant to the switches which caused them to overheat. The automaker claimed it had received 129 complaints and that the problem had only resulted in eight minor injuries.
According to the NHTSA, the agency received additional 32 complaints and that one of these involved an injury caused by an overheated switch.
In August, Toyota announced that it was launching a “customer satisfaction campaign” to deal with the issue. The automaker has not disclosed what prompted it to announce last Wednesday’s recall, which will include about 2.52 million vehicles in the U.S. In a statement, the company said the decision to announce a recall was reached “after discussion and consultation” with the NHTSA.
This recall is the largest-ever component call back for the automaker and comes on the heels of the high profile 2009-2010 recall to deal with unintended acceleration, and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Adding to Toyota’s problems is the consumer backlash caused by territorial disputes between Japan and China which has caused the automaker’s China sales to plummet in recent months.
Following the 2009-2010 sudden acceleration recall, Toyota announced that it was putting a number of new measures in place, and streamlining its quality control procedures to prevent such problems from occurring in the future.
Toyota says it has been working closely with the NHTSA to identify the problem with the overheating power window switches since February 17.
A Toyota spokesman said, “It shows we were in a dialogue with NHTSA. We weren’t hiding anything. Once our people got to the bottom of the problem, they were very fast in implementing a response.” However, Toyota received the first report of an overheating power window switch in 2008.
Another Toyota spokesman justified Toyota’s lengthy internal investigation saying, “We were trying to identify the reason. We can’t announce it until we really identify what’s going on and determine the root cause.”