Toyota to Restart Safety-stalled U.S. Production on Feb 8

Repair to vehicles already on the roads should begin this weekend

Toyota will restart U.S. and Canadian production of vehicles affected by a mass recall due to faulty gas pedals on February 8, the company said on Feb. 1. "The heat's on right now to execute this plan," Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor USA, said.

Five plants were affected by the production halt: Toyota's Canadian plant which produces the Corolla, Matrix, and RAV4; Toyota's Indiana plant which makes the Sequoia and Highlander; Toyota's Kentucky plant which build the Camry and Avalon; Toyota's Texas Tundra truck plant; and Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. which builds the Camry.

Its first priority is to repair vehicles already on the roads, Lentz said. Toyota announced on Feb. 1 that it had found a "comprehensive solution" to the problems which involves installing a steel reinforcement bar to the pedal assembly. Those bars should arrive at dealerships on Feb. 2 or Feb. 8 and repairs should begin this weekend.

Sales of vehicles already on dealer lots will begin once dealers have time to repair them, but existing customers will get first priority.

Lentz did not provide a timeline as to how long people would have to wait to get an appointment to have their vehicles fixed, but said the repairs should only take about 30 minutes and that the supply of replacement parts will not be a problem. "It's going to be on an individual by individual dealership basis," Lentz said. "The replacement pieces... we will have those in quantity very, very quickly."

Toyota has redesigned the pedals so that new vehicles will not need the reinforcement bar, Lentz added.

He expressed confidence that both fixes would solve the problems with sudden, unexpected acceleration.

"It's a long-term fix. It's not an interim solution to a problem," added Bob Waltz, vice president of product quality and service support, who said both solutions had undergone "extensive" durability testing.

Lentz said it was too early to tell how sales would be affected by the recall and suspension of production and sales but that he expected the long-term impact could be "minimal" if Toyota handles things properly. "This is embarrassing for us to have this kind of recall situation but it doesn't necessarily mean we've lost our edge on quality," he said. "We have to redouble our efforts because we don't want to put our customers through this."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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