In a development that is surprising to absolutely no one (unless you’re new to this country, to which I say, welcome!), it has been learned that complaints of the driver’s door window switch were first reported to Toyota, back in 2008. In case you have not heard, this resulted in a Toyota recall of 7.43 million Toyotas worldwide, and over 2.5 million vehicles in the United States.
More specifically, the initial complaint was in reference to an “unusual smell” coming from the switch, as well as some “thermal damage” which had occurred, but it was not specified as to which incident occurred first. The automaker had sent the complaint to the supplier for further investigation, but no conclusions were made, and the case was closed, dismissing this as an isolated incident (recalls generally occur whenever there is sufficient evidence that x number of vehicles have been, or could be affected by a defective component).
“There was really no trend early on and it took considerable time to diagnose what seemed to be an isolated problem and how it was occurring,” John Hanson, a U.S.-based spokesman for Toyota, said in an e-mail.
No other complaints were reported until May 2010, when Toyota began to receive them intermittently. Of course, no action was taken, despite customers complaining about abnormal smell and/or smoke coming from the driver’s side doors. One can safely assume that Toyota dealerships either told the customer that “it’s normal”, or attempted to blame the customer, in what seems to be their two default responses to anything that goes wrong with their vehicles. Which we all know that never happens…
Anyways, the process that led to the most recent Toyota recall all began in February of this year, whenever the NHTSA began investigating complaints that owners of the Toyota Camry and the RAV4 vehicles were experiencing fires that started from the power window switch, located on the driver’s door. They had received six complaints to begin with, and eventually nine fires and 161 injuries were reported, according to Lynda Tran, a NHTSA spokeswoman.
If you’re wondering why this wasn’t disclosed at the time of the Toyota recall last week, according to Dio Corbett (a Tokyo-based Toyota spokesperson), it’s because the public relations department didn’t have the information available at the time of the announcement. Moreover, since Toyota classifies “accidents” as “collisions and crashes”, it did not consider this as an accident, since there were no reports of injuries from the accidents.
Also, according to a report that was posted on NHTSA, the owner of a 2007 Camry reported noticing “black smoke throughout the car” that “immediately turned into flames, which caused poor visibility and complete panic” for the driver and three passengers in the car on Dec. 26, 2011. Unfortunately, the flames had burned the driver’s coat, as well as a passenger’s hand, as they were attempting to exit the vehicle. I guess Toyota doesn’t consider that to be an “accident” as well.
It’s disappointing to see Toyota drag their feet on this recall, especially after what transpired a couple of years ago. You would think that an automaker would be more proactive in not only getting the word out, but coming up with and executing a solution that exceeds their customers’ expectations. Once the 2010 recalls rolled out, I predicted that it would only be a matter of time before Toyota went back to their old ways. Unfortunately, it looks like I was right…guess we’ll have to wait and see how they handle the next Toyota recall. It’s not a matter if it will happen, but a matter of when.
News Source: Bloomberg