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 United States. It's 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 inside the driver's door. Toyota said grease wasn't applied evenly to the switch during production, causing friction and sometimes smoke and fire. The flaw raises questions about whether Toyota Motor Corp. has solved quality and safety issues that embarrassed the company in 2009 and 2010. It also could jeopardize Toyota's impressive rebound from last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Those disasters hobbled factories and left dealers short of models to sell.
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 $1.56, or 2.05 percent, to $74.50 Wednesday.
Toyota said initially the window switch problem hasn't caused crashes or injuries. But documents filed by U.S. safety regulators show customers have reported 161 fires and nine injuries. No deaths have occurred.
Most fires caused by the window switch were minor, although 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 dealers will inspect the switches and apply a special grease. In some cases the switches and circuit boards could be replaced, the company 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.