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Toyota halts sales of eight models as plants wait for new pedals

Wed, 27 Jan 2010

Toyota Motor Corp. has suspended sales of eight models as its assembly plants wait for redesigned replacements for faulty accelerator pedal mechanisms.

The sales halt will be followed by a production shutdown next week at five North American plants, Toyota said late Tuesday. The factories produce the cars and trucks that were among the 2.3 million Toyota recalled last week to fix accelerator pedals that are prone to stick.

Some Toyota plants may have already received the replacement part, but others will have to wait until production of the new mechanism ramps up, a person familiar with the matter said.

The source didn't offer details of the timeline. Blueprints for the redesigned mechanism were finished earlier this week by engineers at Toyota r&d and the U.S. supplier, CTS Corp., the person said.

“The countermeasure pedal is now available from the supplier,” the source said. “We are now in the transition period. It's just a matter of time in getting the parts to the plants.”

Toyota spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi confirmed that the supplier has already developed a replacement mechanism for the pedals. She said it was unclear to what extent they have already been shipped to assembly plants. Two of the factories are in Indiana, with one each in Texas, Kentucky and Canada.

The fix comes as the world's largest automaker struggles to rein in a widening crisis involving complaints about unintended acceleration cases, several that involved fatal crashes.

The faulty accelerators were made in Canada by CTS, which is headquartered in Elkhart, Ind. A person answering the phone after hours Tuesday declined to comment on the situation.

Last week's recall covers 2005-10 Avalons, 2007-10 Camrys and Tundras; 2008-10 Sequoias; 2009-10 Corollas, RAV4s and Matrixes; and 2010 Highlanders.

Takeuchi said next week's production shutdown is aimed at averting an inventory backup. It was unclear when output will resume. Production of the recalled vehicles will be initially halted from Feb. 1 through Feb. 5.

Following the Jan. 21 recall announcement, a limited number of vehicles continued to be made with the problematic pedal mechanism, Takeuchi said. It is unclear how many, but those vehicles were not shipped, she said.

Last week's recall followed a 4.2 million-vehicle recall last fall aimed at fixing floor mats that could jam the accelerator, causing unintended acceleration.

Bigger headaches still loom for Toyota.

Although the company has developed a replacement pedal mechanism so it can continue production of 2010 model year vehicles, fixing vehicles already in the field is more complicated.

Swapping old pedals for new ones would require volume of some 2 million pedals.

“We have to produce more than 2 million pedals,” the source said. “That takes a long time. That's more than we can produce in a year.”

Meanwhile, Toyota may expand the recall to Europe and China.

By Hans Greimel and Kathy Jackson- Automotive News