Special Coverage

Toyota's Safety Crisis

The fix for faulty accelerator pedals in 2.3 million recalled Toyota vehicles likely will be different for those units already in operation, a Toyota Motor Engineering & Mfg. North America Inc. spokeswoman confirms.

“It’s not necessarily going to be the same thing,” Toyota spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel tells Ward’s.

McDaniel confirms supplier CTS Corp., which provided the accelerator pedals for the recalled Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Highlander, RAV4, Sequoia and Tundra models, has begun shipping replacements to Toyota, with some units already having arrived.

However, Toyota still will halt production next week at the plants where those vehicles are assembled.

The affected plants are: Georgetown, KY (Avalon/Camry, line one only); Princeton, IN (Highlander); San Antonio, (Tundra); and Cambridge, ON, Canada (Matrix).

Toyota also will idle its line at partner Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru facility in Lafayette, IN, where some Camrys are produced.

McDaniel cites “logistics and planning” as to why Toyota didn’t immediately idle the five plants when it pulled the affected models from the market Jan. 26.

“We’ve got 500 U.S. suppliers,” she says. “You can’t just turn off the switch and stop the pipeline of the commodities flowing in.”

McDaniel says Toyota also wanted time to prepare its employees for the shutdowns.

As happened last year when Toyota idled lines because of the industry sales slump, affected assembly-line workers will have the choice of engaging in training and quality-improvement activities, taking paid vacation or unpaid time off.

McDaniel says the shutdowns are necessary because Toyota doesn’t want to “backlog” its dealers, who already are holding vehicles that need to be fixed.

She offers no specifics on when a fix will be ready for consumers who already own a recalled Toyota, but says Toyota executives and technical personnel have discussed the situation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.

She declines comment on reports the fix for Toyotas in the field will entail installation of a spring instead of a replacement pedal.

Toyota presented the remedy to NHTSA, “but at this point we’re not ready to publically communicate what that remedy is going to be,” McDaniel says.

Meanwhile, subtle finger-pointing has begun. CTS has said its work was based on “Toyota's design specifications,” while McDaniel tells Ward’s: “CTS designed the pedal and we approved it.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com