Toyota Says Parts On Way to Fix Pedals

Toyota Says Parts On Way to Fix Pedals

POSTED: Monday, February 1, 2010 - 8:48am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:26pm

By KEN THOMAS and TOM KRISHER
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) - Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday its dealers
should get parts to fix a sticky gas pedal problem by the end of
this week as the automaker apologized to customers and tried to
bring an end to a recall that has affected 4.2 million vehicles
worldwide.
The company said in a statement that it has begun shipping parts
and is training dealers on the repairs. Some dealers will stay open
around the clock to fix the 2.3 million cars and trucks affected by
the recall in the U.S.
Technical bulletins on how to install the new parts should
arrive at dealers by midweek, the company told dealers in an
e-mail. It was not clear exactly when repairs would start, although
dealers have said they'll begin as soon as possible.
The automaker also said Monday it would suspend production of
eight U.S. models affected by the recall this week, with factories
restarting on Feb. 8.
Toyota suspended sales of the models last week, but spokesman
Mike Michels said dealers can begin selling the cars as soon they
are fixed. However, cars already on the road will be the dealers'
first priority, he said in an e-mail.
Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor
Sales, said in the statement that nothing is more important than
customer safety.
In a video clip released by the automaker, Lentz said he wanted
to "sincerely apologize to Toyota owners. I know that our recalls
have caused many of you concern and for that I am truly sorry."
"Toyota has always prided itself on building high-quality,
durable cars that customers can depend on and I know that we've let
you down," Lentz said.
Lentz, in an interview on NBC's "Today," said the automaker
was "confident that we have the fix" for the gas pedal system. He
said the company first developed a report on the problems in late
October, and he denied that Toyota had delayed addressing the
problem.
"I drive Toyotas. My family members drive Toyotas ... I would
not have them in products that I knew were not safe," Lentz said.
Tammy Darvish, a dealer in the Washington, D.C., area, said she
expects to get parts Thursday night or Friday morning, and her
dealership will begin repairs immediately, staying open around the
clock.
Darvish said she has set up a 24-hour hotline for her 30,000
Toyota customers and had already begun to schedule appointments for
later this week. She estimated it could take about two weeks for
all the vehicles to be fixed.
"No matter what Toyota does, they always do it right," Darvish
said. "They might be a little slow in coming out, but that's
because they're diligent."
Toyota recalled the vehicles on Jan. 21, determining that excess
friction in the gas pedal assembly could in rare cases cause the
pedals to stick.
Engineers traced the problem to a friction device in the
assembly that is supposed to provide the proper pedal "feel" by
adding resistance, Toyota said in a statement.
The device has a shoe that rubs against a nearby metal surface
during normal pedal use. But wear and environmental conditions can
over time cause the pedals to not operate smoothly or in rare cases
stick partially open.
The company said a steel reinforcement bar will be installed,
reducing the friction.
"With this reinforcement in place, the excess friction that can
cause the pedal to stick is eliminated," the statement said. "The
company has confirmed the effectiveness of the newly reinforced
pedals through rigorous testing on pedal assemblies that had
previously shown a tendency to stick."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Toyota
last week that it was satisfied with the repair plan. Legally
Toyota did not need NHTSA's approval, but the company would be
unlikely to proceed without the government's blessing.
Toyota told its dealers in an e-mail that they should determine
what vehicles to repair first. The company said it "strongly
recommends dealers prioritize consumer vehicles first, followed by
dealer owned inventory." The repairs are expected to take about 30
minutes of work, and drivers should not notice any change in the
feel of the pedal.
Owners are expected to receive information by mail beginning
this week. The company will cover all repair costs.
Since the recall was announced, dealers have been in the
difficult position of telling angry customers that they have no
parts to fix the cars.
The recall in the U.S. includes the 2009-10 RAV4 crossover, the
2009-10 Corolla, the 2009-10 Matrix hatchback, the 2005-10 Avalon,
the 2007-10 Camry, the 2010 Highlander crossover, the 2007-10
Tundra pickup and the 2008-10 Sequoia SUV. It also has been
expanded to another 1.9 million vehicles in Europe and China.
Toyota said that not all the models of Camry, RAV4, Corolla and
Highlander listed in the recall have the faulty gas pedals, which
were made by CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind. Dealers can tell which
models have the CTS pedals. Models made in Japan, and some models
built in the U.S., have pedal systems made by another parts
supplier, Denso Corp., which function well.
All Matrix, Avalon, Tundra and Sequoia models covered by the
recall have the faulty pedals.
Toyota announced late Friday that it would begin shipping new
gas pedal systems to dealers as well.
On Sunday, Toyota took out full-page ads in 20 major newspapers
to reassure customers.
But crisis management experts said the company's reputation for
impeccable reliability has been damaged.
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports, an influential publication for car
buyers, on Friday suspended its "recommended" status for the
eight recalled Toyota models.
The pedal recall is separate from another recall involving floor
mats that can bend and push down accelerators on certain Toyota and
Lexus models. The two recalls combined affect more than 7 million
vehicles worldwide.
Toyota said Monday it is in the process of recalling vehicles to
fix the floor mat problem. Some of its cars are affected by both
recalls, and the company said it intends to fix both problems at
the same time.
The repairs will not bring an end to public scrutiny on how
Toyota handled the problems.
The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is
launching an investigation. It has scheduled a Feb. 10 hearing
titled "Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?" and asked
Yoshi Inaba, chairman and CEO of Toyota Motor North America, to
testify. Separately, a House investigative panel is planning a Feb.
25
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Tom Krisher reported from Detroit.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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