By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
Toyota dealers will be shipped parts this week to fix sticky accelerator pedals that have forced the Japanese automaker to recall more than 4 million cars and trucks, including 2.3 million in the U.S.
The pedals have been blamed for causing several accidents, including some deaths.
Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, the U.S. advertising and sales arm of Toyota Motor Corp., said dealers should be getting stainless steel reinforcement rods that will keep the pedals from sticking.
Training materials also have been sent to dealerships, which will begin repairs as soon as possible.
“We know what’s causing the sticking accelerator pedals, and we know what we have to do to fix it,” he said.
Toyota said most dealers will extend their hours, with some being open 24 hours.
The repairs should take about 30 minutes.
Toyota owners will be mailed notices by the automaker about what to do, Lentz said.
Lentz said in a video clip 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.”
In a conference call later, Lentz said “we’ve let them down,” referring to Toyota customers. But he said the company “will make an all-out effort to fix the problem and regain their trust.”
The recall involves eight models, which Toyota suspended selling last week. On Monday, Lentz said production of the models will halt until Feb. 8 so that the company can focus on the fixes.
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.
A separate set of recalls, involving floor mats, has included millions more of the company’s vehicles in recent months.
“This is embarrassing for us, to have this kind of recall situation,” Lentz said. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean we have lost our edge on quality.”
Lentz said Toyota engineers traced the pedal problem to a friction device in the pedal assembly that caused the pedal to stick. The reinforcement bar will reduce the friction.
Asked if the complicated electronics in the vehicles may have caused the problem, Lentz and other Toyota officials said no.
“We’ve done exhaustive studies and seen no problems,” he said. “There are multiple fail-safes in the system.”
Bob Waltz, TMS vice president of product quality and service support, added that the reinforcement bar is not a stop-gap solution that will lead to other problems.
“It’s a long-term fix, not an interim solution,” he said.
Customer vehicles will be given priority to be fixed first before dealers are to fix their vehicles in stock, Lentz said.
When production resumes next week, all new vehicles will get redesigned pedal assemblies rather than the steel reinforcement bars.
Asked if the recall would hurt Toyota’s sales, Lentz said it would be difficult to gauge.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said, adding that if the repairs are implemented and executed quickly, then “the impact will be minimal.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.