Photo by Martin Abegglen

Many of Toyota’s customers have had to deal with at least one recall of their vehicle in recent years.  In fact, last week Toyota issued its 16th recall since 2007.  The most famous recalls occurred in 2010 when the floor mats caused the accelerator of the car to stick, making cars be unable to stop.  Other recalls were caused by fuel leakages, spare tires failing, and air bags deploying randomly, to name a few.  However, none of the recalls have included Toyota’s dangerous automatic windows.  When Toyota’s drivers attempt to roll their windows up and down, the driver’s door apparently can start smoking and can catch fire.  This was caused by the window manufacturer’s failure to apply the grease evenly on the power window switch, causing friction.  This fire hazard caused Toyota to issue its recall on over 7.4 million cars globally, including over 2 million in the United States.

While Toyota was not the only Japanese car dealer to have problems with its windows, Toyota’s fire windows has a chance to greatly harm the company at a time when it is attempting to recover from the fallout of its previous recalls.  While Toyota initially claimed there were no injuries caused by these windows, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reporting that there were nine confirmed injures from 161 fires.  Toyota claims that this is an “embarrassing and honest error,” which may be more believable if Toyota did not have a track record of trying to hide its mistakes.  In 2010, Toyota paid a $32.425 million fine for failing to promptly report its brake problems to NHTSA.  Here, Toyota first learned about its window problem in 2008 when an “unusual smell” was reported from the power-window switch.  Toyota claims that it could not find a “root cause” of the smell.  In fact, it first learned that the problem was caused by the driver’s side window switch when more sporadic reports were filed in 2010.  Still, given Toyota’s track record, NHTSA is in the process of investigating whether it should have reported the issue earlier.

The question for Toyota and its customers is how large the fallout will be after its massive recall.  Mike Jackson, director of the North American production forecasting for IHS Automotive consulting firm, says that the impact of this recall can be minimized if Toyota makes its customers feel like they are being “cared for properly as repairs are being done.”  Toyota was just starting to regain its reputation for having high-quality cars, as it had before the 2010 recalls, and still has a chance to do so.  ThroughSeptember, Toyota sales were up 32 percent compared to last year, and became the world’s top-selling automaker, narrowly beating out General Motors by 300,000 sales.  In fact, Toyota’s executives have admitted that the quality issues are at least partially caused by the company’s “overly ambitious growth goals.”  Toyota may attempt to continue to grow at this tremendous pace, or it may try to slow its growth and increase its quality control in order to rebuild its reputation as a leader in car quality.

Ryan Loofbourrow

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5 Responses to Dangerous Windows Cause Toyota to Issue Another Recall

  1. Kim Smith says:

    The accelerator issue actually came up with my family over the holiday, as I have a few family members that own Toyota’s that were subject to the recall. Apparently, at least part of the fix for the issue was to just saw off the lower portion of the accelerator pedal.
    Additionally, it looks like another recall was issued by Toyota last week due to the possibility of spare tires fall out from under some of its trucks. Apparently, the amount of salt used in cold weather states has undermined the framing that holds the spare under the 2001-04 Tacoma trucks.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/driveon/2012/11/21/toyota-tacoma-recall-spare-fire/1720449/

  2. Kim Smith says:

    The accelerator issue actually came up at a family gathering over the holiday, as I have a few family members that own Toyota’s and were subject to the recall. Apparently, at least part of the fix for the issue was to just saw off the lower portion of the accelerator pedal.

    Additionally, it looks like another recall was issued by Toyota last week due to the possibility of spare tires falling off some of its trucks. Apparently, the amount of salt used in cold weather states has undermined the framing that holds the spare under the 2001-04 Tacoma trucks.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/driveon/2012/11/21/toyota-tacoma-recall-spare-fire/1720449/

  3. Zachary Loney says:

    If the only problem is improperly placed grease, the fix seems pretty simple. Just bring the car in and reapply the grease. Maybe throw in a free oil change or brake check for good measure.

    Also, the accelerator sticking problem was interesting in that it only occurred because the vehicles lacked a default priority between the accelerator and brake. In most cars, if both pedals are pressed at the same time, the car will obey the brake and ignore the accelerator. So even if the gas pedal is sticking you can still stop the car safely. Toyota likely either overlooked this fix or rejected it because the cost wasn’t worth the benefit.

  4. Francie Kammeraad says:

    I love my Toyota Highlander, but the number of recalls is a little disconcerting. In 2010, Toyota originally claimed that the accelerator sticking was caused by faulty floor mats, but it turned out that the pedals themselves were sticking! I’m glad that Toyota is so honestly reporting this problem.

  5. Emily Green says:

    As a consumer, I would far prefer Toyota take its time to manufacture safe cars the first time around. Not only is the risk of injury from fire alarming (as well as Toyota’s apparent cover-up of the number of injuries from these fires), but also the inconvenience consumers will experience by having their cars recalled seems likely to significantly harm Toyota’s reputation. On the other hand, I’m glad Toyota is fixing the problem!