Gas pedals arrive at Toyota dealers

Posted Feb. 02, 2010, at 7:49 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:06 p.m.

Maine Toyota dealers awaited shipments of new gas pedals Tuesday to help them fix already-sold vehicles among the 2.3 million recalled nationwide for fears that they have sticky accelerators.

The pedals were to start arriving Tuesday or today and the dealers will get repair manuals and training Wednesday or Thursday, a spokesman at the Japanese auto giant’s U.S. headquarters in Torrance, Calif., said.

Letters explaining recall procedures will go to affected vehicle owners early next week, he said.

“To go in the space of a week from ‘we are having a stop-sale’ to ‘we have a fix’ is pretty strong,” said Kevin Kelly, general manager at Down East Toyota of Brewer. “That’s a pretty short turnaround time.”

Toyota apologized to its customers Monday and said a piece of steel about the size of a postage stamp will fix the gas pedal problem. Repairs will take about a half-hour and will start in a matter of days, the company said.

THE RECALLED TOYOTAS*

Avalon large sedan (2005-10)

Camry (2007-10)

Corolla (2009-10)

Highlander crossover (2010)

Matrix hatchback (2009-10)

RAV4 (2009-10 models)

Sequoia large SUV (2008-10)

Tundra pickup (2007-10)

*Many don’t have faulty accelerator pedals and are still on sale. Customers can call local dealers or a national Toyota line, 800-331-4331, for more information.

Source: Toyota

The repair involves installing a steel shim a couple of millimeters thick in the pedal assembly, behind the top of the gas pedal, to eliminate the excess friction between two pieces of the accelerator mechanism.

In rare cases, Toyota says, that friction can cause the pedal to become stuck in the depressed position.

Toyota insisted the solution, rolled out six days after it temporarily stopped selling some of its top models, has been through rigorous testing and will solve the problem for the life of the car.

It is difficult to say how much damage the recalls have done to state dealerships, said John Carter, sales manager at Shepard Toyota of Rockland.

“We haven’t seen any difference in sales so far,” Carter said Tuesday.

Nor have any Toyota owners turned in vehicles to dealers because they noticed sticky accelerators, the dealers said.

The recall applies only to vehicles equipped with pedals supplied by CTS Corp. of Indiana and built in the supplier’s Canadian factory.

That completely knocks out half the models on the recall or sales suspension list: the Avalon large sedan, 2005-10 models; Matrix hatchback, 2009-10; Tundra pickup, 2007-10; and the Sequoia large SUV, 2008-10.

But the rest of the stop-sale list — the Corolla, 2009-10; Camry, 2007-10; Highlander crossover, 2010; and RAV4, 2009-10 — is safe and available, if the vehicles were made in Japan or otherwise without CTS pedals, dealers have said. State dealers reported pulling about a third of their inventory with the stop-sale order.

Toyota owners inundated dealers with telephone calls when the crisis began last week, but generally not to complain or report problems, Kelly said.

“We have received hundreds of calls and 99 of 100 are about what the symptoms are and putting their minds at ease,” Kelly said. “Knowing that, I would say that people are satisfied with their cars.”

Kelly estimated that his dealership had as many as 600 calls, most coming from Wednesday to Friday last week. They tapered dramatically by Saturday, and Toyota announced the fix on Monday, he said.

The Associated Press contributed in this report.

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