NHTSA expands its probe of Toyota door fires

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The NHTSA says a faulty switch could cause some Toyotas to combust. Image: Elsie esq./Flickr/CC BY

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said earlier this week that it will be expanding its probe into consumer-reported door fire dangers in some Toyota sedan and SUV models. Originally, just 830,000 vehicles were included in that investigation. With the probe’s expansion Monday, it could now cover as many as 1.4 million.

Yaris and Highlander Hybrid added

The investigation, which was first announced in February, targeted Camrys and RAV4s from the model year 2007. Now it also includes the 2007-2009 Toyota Yaris and the 2008 Highlander Hybrid. The issue stems from a door armrest-mounted power window master switch, which is interchangeable between multiple Toyota models. The switch could overheat and cause the door to ignite.

The Camry is the nation’s most popular car for 2012. Between January and April, 142,225 Camrys were sold in the U.S.

No deaths from the issue

The NHTSA says that so far it knows of 161 fires caused by the faulty switch. Nine injuries have been reported as a result of those fires. However, the safety regulator said it does not know of any deaths associated with the issue.

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‘Trauma and distress’

One filed complaint spoke of how quickly the flames could spread:

“After exiting the vehicle, the flames quickly increased and began shooting into the air uncontrollably. This incident, fortunately, did not lead to any serious physical injuries, however, the emotional trauma and distress caused by the ordeal is long lasting.”

Interchangeable window master switches

According to AOL Autos, the Japan-based automaker is known for using interchangeable parts across many of its models. The automotive site speculates that, because of this, the NHTSA may be adding yet more models to the growing probe.

Reeling from recalls

Last year Toyota suffered through the recall of millions of vehicles over a variety of issues. In March, it recalled 680,000 pickups and crossovers in two separate campaigns. Once considered the maker of reliable cars, another massive recall could be very damaging to the company’s reputation, as well as to its profit margin.

TrailBlazers face engineering analysis

Recently, the NHTSA also expanded its investigation into some Chevrolet TrailBlazers for door fire issues. More than 340,000 vehicles are now included in the widened investigation. That probe has been upgraded into a full engineering analysis, which is the last step before the safety regulator issues a recall.


Los Angeles Times
Globe and Mail
AOL Autos

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