Special Coverage

Toyota's Safety Crisis

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. will replace accelerator pedals for customers on a case-by-case basis, if their vehicles are implicated in Toyota’s sticky-pedal recall, a company spokesman tells Ward’s.

“It is a possibility,” says TMSUSA spokesman Brian Lyons. “There are some (pedals available) in our stock system.”

Toyota has specified a fix for the accelerator pedals that includes inserting a reinforcement bar to eliminate excess friction.

Lyons reiterates previous comments by Toyota officials, saying the auto maker has “high confidence in the solution our engineers have developed.” He adds the reinforcement bar has been tested “rigorously” to afford proper performance.

However, some Toyota owners posting on Internet forums express a strong preference for a replacement pedal, citing a lack of confidence in the fix. Others are dissatisfied with the feel of their pedal after the reinforcement bar was inserted.

Chris Vicencio of Auburn, CA tells Ward’s the fix for his Tundra makes the pedal feel “very awkward. The action on it is so incredibly light.”

Others have reported a similar lack of feedback after the reinforcement bar was installed on their vehicles.

Yet, dealers tell Ward’s few customers have asked for a replacement pedal. “We have replaced one,” says Rich Abajian, general manager-Findlay Toyota of Henderson, NV.

Tammy Darvish, vice president-DARCARS Automotive Group of Maryland, says one of her stores also replaced a pedal. But it was on a model implicated in another Toyota recall related to unintended acceleration.

That campaign is intended to address issues surrounding floor mats interfering with accelerator pedals. Toyota’s fix for that recall is to shave down the pedals.

“We did replace one, but only because one of the initial ones we were re-shaping, broke,” Darvish says.

Lyons won’t specify the exact number of replacement pedals available to dealers but calls Toyota’s supply system “robust and flexible” and capable of meeting demand. “If a part is needed, we can get it very quickly,” he says.

The supplier of the pedal implicated in the sticky-pedal recall, CTS Corp., declines comment on how much of its production has been allocated to replacement pedals vs. new production.

Lyons says Denso Corp. pedals are interchangeable in some instances, but Toyota is advising dealers to replace “like with like.”

Denso pedals sent to dealerships are for Toyota’s floor-mat recall. Vehicles equipped with Denso accelerator pedals are not implicated in Toyota’s sticky-pedal recall.

Abajian, whose store is among the nation’s largest Toyota dealers, believes customers are less anxious now that the media frenzy over the recalls is dying down. “Last Saturday, we had 50 appointments canceled,” he says.

Next week, Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda will testify before a U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

Toyoda initially was not planning to appear but since has reversed his position, reportedly saying he wants to offer “a sincere explanation” of Toyota’s handling of the recall.

Several U.S. congressmen have accused Toyota of moving too slowly in acknowledging.

There are claims, many made by lawyers, that dozens of deaths are linked to unintended acceleration by Toyota vehicles.

Toyota now is investigating reports of steering difficulty with its ’09 and ’10 Corolla compact cars. Lyons says the investigation may lead to a technical service bulletin instead of a recall.

Safety issues trigger recalls, Lyons says. Other factors Toyota traditionally weighs in deciding between a service bulletin and a recall include the number of vehicles involved in an investigation and the “severity of the issue.”

A search of NHTSA’s complaints database today shows 172 complaints related to the ’10 Corolla, 94 of which cite steering. Some 166 of 344 complaints made against the ’09 Corolla also cite steering.

The same problem is mentioned in other Corolla complaints related to braking, tires and fuel delivery.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com