Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches

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Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches

1st Gear: Toyota Recall
Reuters says Toyota is recalling a breathtaking 7.4 million vehicles worldwide for a power window glitch that is a potential fire risk. It's the single biggest recall in the industry since Ford recalled 8 million cars in 1996 for an ignition issue that also could have caused engine fires. The Toyota recall dents its efforts to put the big recalls from last decade behind it, and it also comes after Toyota initially said there wasn't a need to recall the cars. According to Justin Hyde at Motoramic, Toyota told NHTSA in April that the problem might be due to dealers using cleaning products to fix sticking windows. Well, NHTSA didn't accept that explanation, and upgraded its investigation in June, a sign that a recall was likely.

Toyota's press release says the issue could lead to a smoking switch, although fire could occur if "commercially available lubricants" are used on the switch... leading to potential fiery death if you're exceptionally slow about getting out of the car. The recall number is huge because Toyota used the same switch across a whole bunch of cars, one of the problems that comes with global platforms. When something goes wrong, you have to bring them all in. The worldwide recall affects a variety of cars built from 2005 to 2010, according to Reuters, with 2.47 million sold in the U.S. Of the American cars in the recall, the vehicles include 2007 to 2008 Yaris; 2007 to 2009 RAV4, Tundra, Camry and Camry Hybrid; 2008 to 2009 Scion xD, Scion xA and Sequoia, 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid, and 2009 Corolla and Matrix. (Prius is not on the list, nor are any Lexus models.)


Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches

2nd Gear: China Slump Could Hurt The Big Players
The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) says turmoil in China could hurt more than the Japanese companies. It says General Motors and Volkswagen could be hurt as well. "Chinese consumers may be shunning Japanese cars for nationalistic reasons, but there are signs that it's getting tougher for all auto makers to hit their ambitious sales targets in the world's largest auto market. Sales in July, the last month for which there's comprehensive data, fell 12.6% from June levels, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers," reports Joe White. A slump in Chinese sales will expose how overbuilt the country has become, says analyst John Humphrey of J.D. Power Associates.

Here are some eye opening numbers: China has about 95 different automotive brands, while domestic and foreign auto makers have the capacity to build 28.5 million cars and commercial vehicles in China – about 9 million more than customers are likely to buy this year. That is a lot of empty production capacity. Humphrey thinks the Chinese market is a lot like the American market in the early 1900s, when there was a crazy number of companies competing for very few customers. (Read more about that in 4th Gear.) Only the companies with the strongest ties to Chinese consumers will make it and that might mean big trouble for foreign brands.


Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches

3rd Gear: Get Ready For The Fiat 500X
Top Gear says Fiat is planning to extend the 500 lineup with yet more vehicles, just as BMW is doing with Mini. One of them will be the 500X, which the Englishmen describe as a "proper little crossover." (Is that what this is?) They say it has a curvier body than this 500L, which is a bigger version of the basic 500, with a more rounded and rugged nose, prominent arches and a sloping tail. The 500X has higher ground clearance and the option of four-wheel drive which means a different rear suspension against the standard two-wheel drive - in other words, struts versus torsion beam.

Top Gear says that in order to help the the 500L and 500X take on the Mini Clubman and Countryman, they get bigger engines. They also say Fiat is working on a version from the same platform for Jeep, and it will have off-road capability. A micro off-roader, you say, gents? How intriguing.


Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches

4th Gear: Oldest Surviving Ford Goes Up For Auction
The Patriot-News says the oldest surviving car sold by Ford is going up for auction in Hershey, Pa. It is a 1903 Model A Rear Entry Tonneau, built the same year that Ford incorporated, and it looks nothing like the Model A that became familiar later on the company's history. This one looks like an original horseless carriage. It has only an eight horsepower engine, and it's one of 1,700 Model As that were built at Ford's Mack Avenue plant in Detroit. This vehicle is expect to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000 at the Hershey auction on Friday. These Model As were crucial to Henry Ford: if they hadn't sold, it's unlikely his fledgling company would have survived.


5th Gear: Goodbye To Budd Lynch
Long time Detroit Red Wings broadcaster and PA announcer Budd Lynch died yesterday. The Red Wings' logo is a winged wheel, and Lynch meant a lot to those of us who grew up in Detroit. Here he is, introducing the Wings at the 1995 Stanley Cup finals. Look at how young they were.


Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches

Reverse: A Salute To Superman
On this day in 2004, Christopher Reeve died. He was a handsome Hollywood leading man before the 1995 riding accident that paralyzed him and turned him into an advocate for spinal cord research. Reeve, who revived the Superman movie franchise, also was known for Somewhere in Time, the romance set on Michigan's Mackinac Island. And he's involved in some automotive trivia: Mackinac, which has banned cars for a century, lifted the restriction for one scene so that Reeve could be shown driving up to the Grand Hotel. {History]

Neutral
In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.

Today, what do you think about Fiat expanding the 500 lineup? Are you interested in a cute little crossover? Or do you wish companies would just leave these iconic cars alone? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.

Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches
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Toyota Is Recalling 7.4 Million Cars Over Fiery Window Switches
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