TOKYO — Toyota is recalling 6.5 million vehicles worldwide to fix faulty power window switches that can potentially catch fire, the automaker said on Wednesday. It is the fourth recall involving that component since 2009.
The recall is one of the largest single recalls initiated by the company and brings the number of vehicles affected by the problem to 14 million. Toyota said the switches could be replaced in about an hour.
The automaker has had trouble sourcing window switches made with the right amount of grease. Earlier recalls for the part, which is made by a Japan-based supplier, Tokai Rika, were ordered because too much heat-resistant grease was used to coat the switches’ internal mechanisms. This time, the parts were found to contain too little grease.
In Japan, where about 10 percent of the affected vehicles were sold, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said two minor fires had been linked to the problem and 46 drivers had reported detecting smoke when raising or lowering their windows.
Toyota said it had received a report that one person in the United States had suffered a hand burn as a result of the defect.
The window switch recall covers 2.7 million vehicles in North America, 1.2 million in Europe and 600,000 in Japan, Toyota said. It affects a range of models manufactured from 2005 to 2010, including the Camry sedan and RAV4 and Highlander sport utility vehicles.
Like other automakers, Toyota has been streamlining its supply chain by using a number of standardized parts across many different models. The strategy has the advantage of lowing costs, but the greater volumes mean that when a part is faulty, millions of vehicles can be affected.
Carmakers are also more sensitive to reputational risks and the potential for lawsuits as a result of more serious recent safety scandals, like those involving dangerous ignition switches in General Motors vehicles and exploding airbags made by the Japanese supplier Takata. In those cases, manufacturers have been accused of being slow to take action and protect customers.
Toyota adopted a more proactive recall policy several years ago after it was caught up in a furor over unintended acceleration in some vehicles and ended up recalling millions of vehicles in multiple waves to fix problems with accelerator pedals, floor mats and other components.