Thursday, June 21, 2012

Toyotoa Vehicles Investigated for Fire Hazards

Federal safety investigators have upgraded and expanded an investigation into 1.42 million Toyota vehicles for door fires sparked by power window switches.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a notice posted Monday on its website that it was adding 600,000 Toyota Camrys and some other vehicles to the investigation it opened in February.
The issue is linked to 161 incidents, including nine injuries. No deaths have been reported. NHTSA says it is upgrading its investigation to an engineering analysis from a preliminary review.
The investigation now covers the 2007-09 Camry, Camry Hybrid, RAV4, Yaris and all Highlander Hybrid vehicles. The vehicles under investigation were built between September 2006 and August 2008.
NHTSA says some Toyota vehicles have a higher rate of fire and overheating among all Toyota vehicles that use the same power window master switch design. Fires or smoke can originate in the power window master switch assembly in the driver door armrest.
Toyota says after an intensive investigation, it believes the issue is extremely rare and may be the result of lubricants used to repair the switches, rather than a manufacturing issue. In any event, Toyota says the issue does not represent a safety concern.
Toyota says all of the injuries were minor, "reportedly limited to the occupant's left hand and resulted in redness of the skin; the most severe injury claimed was a blister to the index finger of the left hand."
In 2009, Toyota recalled power window master switches in various Toyota vehicles sold in China and Japan, including 2007 Camry vehicles sold in China. The recalls were because the switches can short-circuit, which can lead to overheating and melting of the component. But Toyota said the switches were not identical — nor was the manufacturing process — to the ones sold in the U.S.
In the wake of its recall of more than 10 million vehicles for sudden unintended acceleration, Toyota agreed in 2010 to pay nearly $50 million in fines to the U.S. government.
Toyota paid $16 million in failing to recall vehicles in the U.S. In 2004, Toyota conducted a recall in Japan for Hilux trucks with steering relay rods prone to fatigue cracking and breaking, causing the vehicle to lose steering control.
At that time, Toyota informed NHTSA that the safety defect was isolated to vehicles in Japan and that the company had not received similar U.S. reports.
In 2005, however, Toyota informed NHTSA that the steering relay rod defect was present in several models sold in the United States and conducted a recall for nearly one million vehicles. NHTSA said it learned later that Toyota had received reports of issues in the U.S. as early as 2004.
NHTSA is taking a broad look at door fires.
NHTSA said Friday it upgraded an investigation into more than 340,000 Chevrolet Trailblazer SUVs over electrical fires sparked in driver doors.
NHTSA said it has reports of 28 door fires linked to the problem.
Some of the fires allegedly happened when the vehicle was not running and unattended. NHTSA said.
NHTSA said GM has received 167 reports and 698 warranty claims that allege the driver door module has melted and burned. NHTSA has received 83 complaints, 66 alleging the door module had melted or burned, and the remaining 17 stating that the window switches acted erratically or were inoperative.
In a letter to NHTSA, GM said the predominant warranty issues were inoperative switches rather than a fire. GM says the power windows, door locks, window lockouts and optional heated switches may begin to function erratically and then become inoperative because of a short circuit.
In some cases, the driver-side switch plastic could continue to heat and smoke may be produced, GM acknowledged.
"In exceptionally rare circumstances, heating could continue until the plastic ignites," GM said in an April 20 letter to NHTSA.

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