The recall could indicate that other automakers will be facing similar pressures. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating Subaru and General Motors for similar complaints. Those automakers may share a common supplier for the door switch.
Toyota has weathered it's large recalls fairly well, increasing market share despite the quality concerns. "Toyota has done an outstanding job of regaining customer trust and getting repeat customers into its showrooms," said Jeffrey Anderson, director of consulting and analytics for Experian Automotive.
In complaints filed with NHTSA, consumers reported smelling smoke, and within seconds realizing there were flames coming from the driver's side door. In some cases, the passenger side window began rolling down as the fires started.
One driver described a panicky scene in which his or her coat caught on fire:
"The smoke immediately turned into flames, which caused poor visibility and complete panic," he or she wrote. "The flames caught the left side of my arm and started to burn my coat ... After exiting the vehicle, the flames quickly increased and began shooting into the air."
Another person said the fire started when he or she was driving with three children in the car. They pulled over to a busy intersection and watched while the door burned.
More than 160 fires were attributed to the switch fire, including eight injuries.
Toyota said the fires are starting in window button – the one that lets drivers decide if passengers are allowed to operate their own windows -- on the driver side door. Before problems occur, the switch might feel like it sticks.
Toyota said the sticky feeling is caused "by an uneven application of the grease during the switch assembly process at the supplier." If the grease isn't applied evenly, the grease becomes carbonized and stops working.
The recall will involve an inspection, taking apart the switch, and an application of special fluorine grease.
The parts were made by Tokai Rika Co. in Japan and TRAM Inc., a subsidiary of Tokai Rika North America. Tokai Rika's Chinese arm was responsible for parts involved in a door fire recall in China, Toyota told NHTSA.
Here is a list of the cars involved in the recall:
- 2007 to 2008 Yaris (approx. 110,300)
- 2007 to 2009 RAV4 (approx. 336,400)
- 2007 to 2009 Tundra (approx. 337,100)
- 2007 to 2009 Camry (approx. 938,100)
- 2007 to 2009 Camry Hybrid (approx. 116,800)
- 2008 to 2009 Scion xD (approx. 34,400)
- 2008 to 2009 Scion xA (approx. 77,500)
- 2008 to 2009 Sequoia (approx. 38,500)
- 2008 Highlander (approx. 135,400)
- 2008 Highlander Hybrid (approx. 23,200)
- 2009 Corolla (approx. 270,900)
- 2009 Matrix (approx. 53,800)