By Ken Thomas/The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Toyota is suspending U.S. sales of eight car and truck models to fix sticking gas pedals and halting production lines at plants from Texas to Canada to deal with the problem, the latest to confront the world’s No. 1 automaker.
The suspended sales, announced Tuesday, involve a significant portion of Toyota Motor Co.’s fleet and some of its most popular vehicles, including the Camry and Corolla. As part of the plan, Toyota is halting some production at five assembly plants beginning the week of Feb. 1 “to assess and coordinate activities.”
There are 2.3 million vehicles involved in the recall, which was announced last week. Toyota has said it was unaware of any accidents or injuries due to the pedal problems associated with the recall, but could not rule them out for sure.
“This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized,” said Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president and general manager.
The Japanese automaker said the sales suspension includes the following models: the 2009-2010 RAV4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2009-2010 Matrix, the 2005-2010 Avalon, the 2010 Highlander, the 2007-2010 Tundra and the 2008-2010 Sequoia.
Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst for the consulting firm IHS Global Insight in Troy, Mich., said Toyota typically sells about 65,000 Camrys and Corollas a month, and the frozen sales could strike the company’s bottom line and reputation for quality.
“That’s huge if they can’t sell these and they don’t have a fix identified. They need to go and get a solution to this fast,” Bragman said.
Toyota sold more than 34,000 Camrys in December, making the midsize sedan America’s best-selling car. It commands 3.4 percent of the U.S. market and sales rose 38 percent from a year earlier. Sales of the Corolla and Matrix, a small sedan and a hatchback, totaled 34,220 last month, with 3.3 percent of the market and sales up nearly 55 percent from December of 2008.
It was unclear how long Toyota would suspend production of the vehicles. In an e-mail to employees, company officials said, “we don’t know yet how long this pause will last but we will make every effort to resume production soon.”
Toyota officials did not immediately return phone messages.
The automaker said the move would affect plants in Princeton, Ind., Lafayette, Ind., Georgetown, Ky., San Antonio, Texas, and a facility in Ontario, Canada. About 300 workers who build V8 engines at a Toyota plant in Huntsville, Ala., will also be affected, said Stephanie Deemer, a spokeswoman for the plant.
Deemer said workers there would have the option of receiving additional training, take vacation or unpaid leave.
Toyota said no other North American Toyota facility would be affected by the decision.
Toyota dealers said they were concerned the move would hamper sales and were hopeful parts to fix the problem could be distributed quickly.
“They’re going the extra mile to reassure people that they really care about the customers,” said Earl Stewart, owner of a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla. “It is something that’s going to be at least a short-term hardship on the dealers, and especially on Toyota.”
The auto company said the sales suspension would not affect Lexus or Scion vehicles. Toyota said the Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser and select Camry models, including all Camry hybrids, would remain for sale.
Toyota said last week it was recalling 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix accelerator pedals with mechanical problems that could cause them to become stuck.
The announcement followed a larger recall months earlier of 4.2 million vehicles because of problems with gas pedals becoming trapped under floor mats, causing sudden acceleration. That problem was the cause of several crashes, including some fatalities.
Owners with questions can call the Toyota Customer Experience Center at (800) 331-4331.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.