Yet another car recall is a fresh blow to Toyota's reputation

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The Independent Online

Toyota was fighting to save its reputation yesterday, when, for the second time in three years, it announced a recall of more than seven million cars because of a fire risk connected to faulty window switches.

It is recalling 7.43 million cars – including nearly 150,000 of its popular RAV4, Yaris and Corolla models in the UK – after some drivers using electric window buttons experienced problems during operation.

Toyota warned: "If commercially available lubricants are applied to the switch in an attempt to address the 'notchy' or sticky feel, melting of the switch assembly or smoke could occur and lead to a fire under some circumstances."

In Europe, the recall involves 1.4 million vehicles. The latest safety problems take the total number of Toyota's car recalls in the past three years close to 16 million.

In 2009 it faced serious questions over vehicle safety after problems emerged with the accelerator pedals of certain models including the RAV4 and Corolla. It was found that floor mats could trap the accelerator pedal, causing accidents that allegedly led to dozens of deaths around the world.

That recall gradually widened in scale to affect 12 million cars.

Only two months ago, Toyota added another two models to the recall.

Analysts estimate the problems have cost Toyota $2bn (£1.25bn) as well as hitting new car sales.

Its mishandling of news of the mats problem also led to a US congressional probe, and Toyota faced more than $50m in fines from US regulators.

Today the carmaker stressed that the latest problem had not led to any accidents or deaths. It will be contacting owners of the affected models in the next few weeks and asking them to bring their car in for checks.