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Feds expand Toyota fire investigation to 1.4 million vehicles

DETROIT — The U.S. government has expanded an investigation into fires that can start in the doors of several Toyota models, adding 600,000 Camrys and other vehicles to the inquiry.

The investigation now includes 1.4 million cars and SUVs from the 2007 to 2009 model years. When the probe began in February, it involved more than 800,000 Camrys and RAV4 SUVs from the 2007 model year.

Certain Camrys from the 2008 and 2009 model years, as well as some 2007 to 2009 Yaris subcompacts and all 2008 Highlander Hybrid SUVs, have been added to the investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website Monday. The vehicles were built from September 2006 through August 2008, the safety agency said.

So far, Toyota and the government have received 161 complaints of fires involving the vehicles. Nine people have been hurt, according to government documents. All the vehicles use the same power window switch in the driver's door. The switches can overheat and cause fires, the government said.

The NHTSA has upgraded the investigation to a so-called engineering analysis, which can lead to a recall.

Owners of the Toyotas who smell smoke or feel heat in the doors should call their dealers or take them in for an inspection, Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said.

Toyota's reputation has taken a hit over the past three years due to a string of huge recalls that ballooned to more than 14 million vehicles worldwide.

Federal safety regulators also are investigating a similar fire problem in the doors of 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet TrailBlazer SUVs made by General Motors. The NHTSA posted documents on Saturday saying that the GM probe also had been upgraded to a full engineering analysis. The government said Saturday that it also will evaluate other GM vehicles with the same underpinnings. They include the Buick Rainier, GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender and Saab 9-7X SUVs. GM said it is investigating two reports of fires in Envoys and one in a 9-7X.

The Toyota and GM problems appear to be unrelated.

Feds expand Toyota fire investigation to 1.4 million vehicles 06/18/12 [Last modified: Monday, June 18, 2012 8:11pm]
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