Toyota recalls 7.4 million vehicles for balky window switches in reversal

Toyota announced this morning it would recall about 2.5 million cars and trucks in the United States and 7.4 million vehicles worldwide to fix power window switches that can stick, smoke and potentially cause a fire. There's no reports of major injuries from the problem, but it comes after Toyota told U.S. officials earlier this year that the problem wasn't that serious and didn't require a recall.The recall -- the largest by any automaker since 1996 -- involves inspecting and if necessary replacing the driver's side power window switch. Toyota says a combination of wear that causes the switches to get sticky over time and the grease applied to the switches when they are built can combine to cause overheating.

The move reverses a stance Toyota took earlier this year, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation in February after 32 complaints of smoking, overheating or small fires from the window switches; data from Toyota revealed an additional 129 complaints. NHTSA found 10 reports of minor injuries, none more serious than a blister on a driver's left hand.

In April, Toyota told NHTSA that after extensive analysis, it had found no problem with the window switches themselves, blaming the issue on dealers using cleaning products in an attempt to solve sticking complaints. "Toyota does not believe there to be a defect trend nor an unreasonable risk to safety," the automaker wrote federal officials.

NHTSA did not agree. It had upgraded its investigation in June, a step that often leads to a recall. Toyota has recovered from a string of recalls in 2007 and 2008 that involved over 10 million vehicles worldwide and led to Toyota paying NHTSA $48 million in fines for delaying recalls or hiding safety defects found overseas. Since then, Toyota chief executive Akio Toyoda has vowed to make the company more responsive to safety or quality complaints.

Owners will start receiving notices to have their cars checked at dealerships later this month; the procedure should take about an hour. The models covered by the recall include:

• 2007 to 2008 Yaris
• 2007 to 2009 RAV4
• 2007 to 2009 Tundra
• 2007 to 2009 Camry
• 2007 to 2009 Camry Hybrid
• 2008 to 2009 Scion xD
• 2008 to 2009 Scion xB
• 2008 to 2009 Sequoia
• 2008 Highlander
• 2008 Highlander Hybrid
• 2009 Corolla
• 2009 Matrix