Toyota suspending sales of 8 models involved in accelerator sticking recall

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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WASHINGTON - Toyota suspended Canadian and U.S. sales of some of it's most popular vehicles - including the best-selling Camry - to fix sticking gas pedals that could make the cars accelerate without warning.
In another blow to the world's No. 1 automaker, Toyota Motor Co. said Tuesday it would halt some production at six assembly plants including two in Ontario beginning the week of Feb. 1 "to assess and co-ordinate activities."
There are 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. and about 270,000 in Canada involved in the recall, which was announced last week.
"This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized," said Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice-president and general manager.
The Japanese automaker says the sales suspension includes the 2009-2010 RAV4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2009-2010 Matrix, the 2005-2010 Avalon, the 2007-2010 Camry, 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 per month, and the suspension of 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.
In the U.S., Toyota sold more than 34,000 Camrys in December, making the midsize sedan America's best-selling car, with 3.4 per cent of the market. Sales rose 38 per cent from a year earlier. Sales of the Corolla and Matrix, a small sedan and a hatchback, totalled 34,220 last month, with 3.3 per cent of the market and sales up nearly 55 per cent from December of 2008.
Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said production would be suspended on the affected vehicle lines this week and it was unclear exactly when it would resume. In an email 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."
Michels said engineers were trying to develop a fix as quickly as possible but he did not have a firm timeline on when the vehicle sales could resume.
Toyota shares were down 2.3 per cent in early Tokyo trading at 3,780 yen.
Toyota said the company would stop producing vehicles at plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Texas and Canada. They said no other North American Toyota facility would be affected by the decision.
The automaker said the move would affect plants in Princeton, Ind., Lafayette, Ind., Georgetown, Ky., San Antonio, Texas, and Ontario. 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.
The Japanese automaker produces the Corolla and Matrix at its plant in Cambridge, Ont., and the RAV4 at its plant in Woodstock, Ont.
The company employs about 5,900 people at the two Canadian plants.
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."
Toyota 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 the vehicles in the U.S. and Canada to fix accelerator pedals with mechanical problems that could cause them to become stuck.
That 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.
The recall in November involving the floor mats did not apply to the company's Canadian vehicles. But Toyota Canada said it would still make changes to the gas pedals and floors of some of its vehicles and install a brake override system on some.
And in a situation unique to Canada, the company recommended Toyota Venza owners take out any Toyota-brand drivers'-side all-weather floor mats. Toyota-brand carpeted floor mat were OK if properly installed and secured, it said.
- With files from The Canadian Press

Organizations: Toyota Canada, IHS Global Insight, Lexus

Geographic location: U.S., Canada, Ontario WASHINGTON Troy, Mich. San Antonio, Texas Tokyo Indiana Kentucky Princeton, Ind. Lafayette, Ind. Georgetown, Ky. Huntsville, Ala. Cambridge Woodstock North Palm Beach, Fla Tacoma

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