Recalled U.S. models include the 2007 to 2009 Camry, Tundra pickup and RAV4 small SUV; the 2007 and 2008 Yaris subcompact; the 2008 and 2009 Sequoia large SUV and Scion xD and xA small cars; the 2008 Highlander SUV; and the 2009 Corolla and Matrix compacts.
Hanson said he was not sure if the recall will hurt Toyota's sales, which have come roaring back in the U.S. after production recovered from the earthquake.
Through September, sales were up nearly 32 percent compared with a year earlier, more than double the growth of the U.S. industry. Toyota also reclaimed the title of the world's top-selling automaker during the first half of this year, wresting the crown from General Motors Co. Toyota sold 4.97 million vehicles globally in the first half, beating GM by about 300,000.
The window switch recall also highlights one of the risks of globalized car production: Automakers install the same parts on multiple models in different counties, saving money but exposing their lineups to big recalls if a part is flawed.
Toyota said it quickly identified all the models using the problem switches and took action. "We want to make sure that we addressed this issue quickly and effectively, and I think we are doing that with this recall," Hanson said.
The recall covers only the master power window switch on the driver's side, which controls all four windows. Switches inside the other doors are different, Toyota said.
Before the safety recalls two years ago, Toyota had a reputation for pristine quality, centered around its super-lean production methods that empowered workers to hone in on quality control. Toyota executives have acknowledged the escalating recalls were partly caused by the company's overly ambitious growth goals.
Toyota is also suffering from a sales plunge in China where car buyers are shunning Japanese brands because of a territorial dispute over islands claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.