With class action lawsuits linked to the recall of millions of vehicles, Toyota officials have exonerated one supplier but left another fighting to defend its reputation.
Indiana-based CTS Corp. was thrust into the spotlight when Toyota identified it as the supplier of "sticky" pedals that might get stuck when depressed and could result in uncontrolled acceleration.
The electronic components supplier issued a statement last week expressing its "deep concern" that it was also being linked in media reports to more serious problems with Toyota pedals that date back to before it began working with the Japanese automaker.
A top Toyota executive gave the previous supplier -- Japanese auto parts giant Denso -- a pass earlier this week and provided few details on the root of the problem."Denso is not involved," said Toyota Motor Sales USA president Jim Lentz.
CTS -- which says it was honored by Toyota for "exceeding quality expectations" on the accelerator pedal modules in 2005 and 2006 -- insists it had met Toyota's engineering specifications and should not be blamed for the recalls.
The supplier noted last week that the sudden acceleration defect led the Japanese automaker to recall Toyota and Lexus vehicles built from 1999 onward and that it did not begin supplying the pedals until 2005.
"We are disappointed that, despite these facts, CTS accelerator pedals have been frequently associated with the sudden unintended acceleration problems and incidents in various media reports," said Dennis Thornton, CTS vice president in charge of automotive parts.
The company said the defect had not been linked to any accidents. U.S. safety regulators said sudden acceleration led to 19 deaths in Toyota vehicles in the past decade. Yet CTS was named in a class-action lawsuit filed in Canada that alleges Toyota and CTS "knew or ought to have known of inherent design defects."
Several similar suits have also been filed in the United States.
Toyota officials insisted they would have preferred to keep CTS out of the spotlight but was forced to identify the supplier in communications with U.S. federal safety officials.
The automaker announced plans to use modified pedal assemblies built by CTS when it resumes production next week at five different assembly plants in the United States and Canada. Lentz declined to comment on whether CTS would be held liable for the problem.
Except in a very few, very high profile cases such as the Ford Explorer recall, where Firestone tires were identified as the issue, suppliers almost always avoid attention, even when their name is in the public record.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010
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