Dealers Will Start Fixing Bad Pedals This Week, Says Toyota
Company scrambles to repair recalled vehicles and its public image
By Brendan Moore
Toyota Motor Corp. stated to reporters earlier today that it has already started shipping parts to their dealers that will be used to repair faulty accelerator pedals in their cars that are affected by the massive recall of last week.
The company, reeling from the safety recall, and a suspension of production and sales in many parts of the world, also offered assurances to their customers and the press that they are on top of the situation and are doing everything possible to fix the safety issue.
Toyota said that many dealerships in the United States intend to staff their service departments 24/7 over the next month in order to implement the fix on affected vehicles as quickly as possible for customers.
Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota’s U.S. sales arm, stated this morning on a television news show, “We deeply regret the concern that our recalls have caused for our customers and we are doing everything we can – as fast as we can – to make things right. Stopping production is never an easy decision, but we are 100% confident it was the right decision. We know what’s causing the sticking accelerator pedals, and we know what we have to do to fix it. We also know it is most important to fix this problem in the cars on the road.”
The very public mea culpa by Toyota was book-ended by the company explaining what the problem with the accelerator pedals is, in simple mecahnical terms. Toyota says the problem is due to undue wear caused by friction from a pedal’s operation.
“Due to the materials used, wear and environmental conditions, these surfaces may, over time, begin to stick and release instead of operating smoothly. In some cases friction could increase to a point that the pedal is slow to return to the idle position or, in rare cases, the pedal sticks, leaving the throttle partially open,” the company said.
Toyota states that it has developed a type of shim that can be installed in approximately 30 minutes by any Toyota dealer, which will correct the problem permanently. The company states that is has “thoroughly tested” the proposed repair. The NHSTA, overseen by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said earlier that the federal agency closely scrutinized Toyota’s proposed fix, and that the agency believes the repair will be adequate.
There is considerable chatter on the Internet that the unintended acceleration issue is actually due to a larger problem with Toyota’s electronics in the affected vehicles. Lentz went to considerable trouble to refute those claims, saying that Toyota’s investigation into the problem has made it “quite clear” that the acceleration safety issues are related either to the gas pedal or to a separate issue with the floor mats in certain vehicles.
“We know what the problem is. We have the fix,” Mr. Lentz emphasized.
Still, the chatter on message boards and forums about deficiencies in Toyota’s electronic management in their vehicles seems to be increasing, not decreasing.
In what has to be a humiliating step for the company, Lentz is also featured in a video on Toyota’s website, apologizing for the quality lapse and for endangering the lives of Toyota’s customers.
In part of the broadcast, Lentz, sitting before a somber background, says, “Toyota has always prided itself on building high quality, durable products that customers can depend on. I know that we have let you down.”
“We are redoubling our efforts to make sure that this does not happen again,” he added.
The television interviews and video appearances by Lentz today are only part of Toyota’s efforts to get out in front of this public relations catastrophe; the company has also taken out full-page ads in many newspapers today and tomorrow to present their side of this story.
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