Toyota Canada to begin repairing 270,000 faulty pedals by end of week

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO - Toyota says all 270,000 vehicles in Canada affected by a huge recall should be able to have their defective accelerator pedals repaired within a month, with dealers expected to begin work on priority vehicles by the end of this week.
Customers who own a vehicle that has been recalled should expect a call from their dealer once they're ready to begin doing the repairs, Toyota Canada announced Monday as it grappled with the biggest recall in company history.
"But needless to say, 270,000 people at once can't all be serviced simultaneously, so we're setting some priorities too," Toyota Canada managing director Stephen Beatty said in an interview Monday.
Vehicles that have actually experienced the stickiness associated with the faulty pedal - blamed on excess friction resulting from wear and environmental problems - will be given first priority, followed by older, high-mileage vehicles.
After that, newer vehicles and vehicles that have been ordered by customers but not yet delivered due to a sales halt will be serviced. Beatty said sales of the affected vehicles could resume by the weekend.
Many Toyota dealerships across the country are offering extended hours to meet the sheer volume of work that will come from having to repair the affected vehicles.
Beatty said the fix - installing reinforcement bars to eliminate the excess friction - is "a simple remedy" and mechanics will be able to repair individual vehicles in about 30 minutes. The company will cover all repair costs, and Transport Canada has approved the solution.
To make sure all vehicles in the pipeline have safe pedals, production of the affected models has been halted for a week, beginning Monday.
This means both of Toyota Canada's plants, in the southern Ontario communities of Cambridge and Woodstock, will be shuttered this week, except for one production line in Cambridge that builds the unaffected Lexus RX350. The company has said other work will be found for its employees during the shutdown.
"It was important for us to stop everything, reset the system and make sure as we go forward there are no vehicles anywhere in the system that would exhibit this issue," Beatty said.
The recall - the biggest in Toyota's history - has affected about 4.2 million Toyota customers in the United States, Europe and Asia and has dented the company's reputation as a high-quality manufacturer.
It's likely the Japanese car and truck maker, which has surpassed General Motors as the world's largest automaker, will see a short-term drop in sales as the chaos around the pedal problem is sorted out.
Whether or not it sees a longer-term decline in market share will depend on how quickly it can implement its solution and reassure customers that they won't experience similar problems in the future, experts say.
Beatty said Toyota is doing what it can to make sure the problem is fixed as quickly and effectively as possible.
"I hope the first level of reassurance is that we issued the recall on Jan. 21 and today we already have a remedy that we're prepared to put into the marketplace, and that is only possible because we put the entire global resources of Toyota behind the task of making sure our customers can have confidence in their vehicles," Beatty said.
Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, said in a statement Monday that nothing is more important than customer safety.
In a video clip released by the automaker, Lentz said 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."
"Toyota has always prided itself on building high-quality, durable cars that customers can depend on and I know that we've let you down," Lentz said.
Two class-action lawsuits against the company were announced in Canada on Monday.
Merchant Law Group launched a national class action that accuses Toyota of failing "to provide the standard system protection against runaway acceleration in its vehicles" and providing incorrect information to consumers.
"Many of our clients were personally endangered by runaway acceleration, and other Toyota and Lexus vehicle owners risk similar danger," stated lawyer Tony Merchant. "As well as safety issues, the value of all affected Toyota and Lexus vehicles is decreased, in circumstances where Toyota sought no real solution to the design flaw."
Merchant called the steel reinforcement bar a "low-tech non-solution to their high-tech design flaw."
Beatty said he hadn't seen the lawsuit, but Toyota won't let legal issues distract it from its primary goal of getting the repairs done as quickly as possible.
"Litigation happens from time to time, but our focus frankly isn't on that. It's on making sure we get the solution into the marketplace," he said.
Another national class action launched by Rochon Genova LLP seeks "compensation for losses and injuries as a result of the purchase or use of numerous Toyota vehicles" and names both Toyota and CTS Corp. (NYSE:CTS), the manufacturer of the faulty pedal, as defendants. It alleges that Toyota knew or ought to have known of the design defects.
Both Toyota and CTS say they are unaware of any injuries or accidents due to the CTS pedal.
The recall includes the 2009-10 RAV4 crossover, the 2009-10 Corolla sedan, 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.
The pedal recall is separate from another Toyota recall involving floor mats that can bend and push down accelerators. While the floor mat recall didn't affect Canadian vehicles, the two recalls combined affect more than seven million vehicles worldwide.
Toyota says it will implement the same plan in the U.S. right away. A European spokesman for the company said the same fix would be used there, too, although he didn't know when repairs would begin.

Organizations: Toyota Canada, Transport Canada, General Motors Lexus NYSE

Geographic location: Canada, TORONTO, Cambridge United States Southern Ontario Europe Asia

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