* Biggest single recall since Ford in 1996
* Window switches may cause fire, emit smoke
* Switches can be repaired in 40 mins - spokeswoman
* Recalls include 2.47 mln vehicles in the U.S.
* No accidents, deaths or injuries reported-spokeswoman
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, Oct 10 Toyota Motor Corp said it
would recall more than 7.4 million vehicles worldwide for faulty
power window switches that are a potential fire hazard, the
latest in a series of setbacks that have dented the reputation
of Japan's biggest automaker.
The voluntary move is the biggest single recall since Ford
pulled 8 million vehicles off the road in 1996 to replace
defective ignition switches that could have caused engine fires.
Toyota has battled its way back from multiple difficulties
since 2008, including a series of recalls involving more than 10
million of its vehicles in 2009-11, and crippled supply chains
from last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan and floods in
Thailand. It posted its biggest quarterly operating profit in
four years in April-June.
The firm regained its crown as the world's best-selling
automaker in the first half year and expects to sell 9.76
million cars and light trucks globally this year, including the
Daihatsu and Hino brands.
More recently, though, Toyota - and other Japanese brands -
have seen sales plummet in China, the world's biggest autos
market, as a result of protests in a simmering Sino-Japanese
territorial dispute. Toyota said on Tuesday that its China sales
fell 48.9 percent year-on-year in September. Sales in China
account for about 12 percent of its total.
The recall, intended to fix a malfunctioning power window
switch on the driver's side, primarily affects cars in the
United States, China and Europe.
Toyota's main rivals in the United States include Ford and
General Motors Co, while in China they include Volkswagen
AG, Hyundai Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co
Ltd, and in Europe, Hyundai and Nissan.
The recall will include some Yaris and Corolla models, with
repairs taking about 40 minutes, the company said.
"The process to repair (the power window switch) is not an
extensive one," spokeswoman Monika Saito said, adding that it
would involve putting heat-resistant grease on the switches, or
Toyota declined to say how much the recall would cost, or
what impact it may have on future earnings.
Koichi Sugimoto, senior analyst at BNP Paribas Securities in
Tokyo, estimated the recall could cost at least 10 billion yen
"Of course, 7 million vehicles is a huge number, but it's
probably not going to be like last time when customers in the
United States avoided buying Toyota cars. This sounds like a
completely different scale from then," he said.
IMPACT TO REPUTATION
U.S. auto analysts and dealers were split on the impact the
massive recall will have on Toyota's reputation, from a mild
speed bump that will be quickly overcome to a damaging sideswipe
that will send some customers to other brands.
Despite the massive size of the recall, the defect itself is
"pretty minor," said Carl Swope, chairman of Toyota's National
Dealer Advisory Council, adding the company has been proactive
in addressing safety concerns since 2008, including recalls for
sticky accelerators and accelerators that could be pinned down
by loose floormats.
"I don't think that the dealers are concerned at all about
the impact," Swope said. "This kind of recall is almost a
testament to Toyota and their resolve to absolutely address any
But others disagreed. "Toyota's had so many hard hits and so
many issues in the past few years," said Jim Ziegler, a
Georgia-based consultant to auto dealers.
While recalls from 2009 to 2011 were "beyond their control"
this current problem was "foreseeable engineering," Ziegler
Ziegler said that both Toyota and Honda Motor Co
have well-earned reputations for quality among U.S. consumers,
but that both Japanese automakers have taken content out of
their vehicles in order to keep prices down amid fierce
competition, particularly from Hyundai and its stablemate, Kia
George Cook, professor of business at the University of
Rochester in New York who worked for Ford and Xerox Corp in
marketing, said the spate of recent recalls at Toyota "will hurt
their reputation and image eventually.
"People are going to say, 'Are they as safe a bet now as
they used to be?' said Cook.
John O'Dell, senior editor at Edmunds.com, said that
consumer consideration of Toyota vehicles may take a slight hit
but is not likely to suffer long-term damage due to the latest
"It took a long time for the big Japanese companies to
develop their ironclad reputations" for making quality vehicles,
said O'Dell, referring to Honda as well as Toyota.
O'Dell said he expected Toyota's loyal U.S. customers to
stick with the automaker, in part because this particular recall
does not seem imminently dangerous.
The recall will include 2.47 million vehicles in the United
States, 1.4 million in China and 1.39 million in Europe, the
No accidents, injuries or deaths have been reported as a
result of the problem, though there is a possibility the
malfunctioning switches could emit smoke, Saito said. Toyota's
U.S. news release said the problem could lead to fire if
commercially available lubricants were used on the switch.
Toyota will take in for repair about 459,300 vehicles in
Japan, including the Vitz model, produced between 2006 and 2008.
The firm is also recalling 650,000 vehicles in Australia and
Asia, 490,000 in the Near and Middle East, 240,000 in Canada and
330,000 elsewhere, said Shino Yamada, another spokeswoman for
The vehicles recalled outside Japan include some models of
the Yaris, Vios, Corolla, Matrix, Auris, Camry, RAV4,
Highlander, Tundra, Sequoia, xB and xD produced between 2005 and
The first time the problem was reported was in September
2008 in the United States, Saito said.
Shares in Toyota ended down 1.9 percent on Wednesday, in
line with the broader Nikkei index.