February 09, 2010 18:52
The Toyota Motor Corporation says its engineers have solved the accelerator problem that prompted the recall of more than four million of its most popular models. The company apologized to customers on Monday and said repairs will begin as soon as possible.
The Japanese automaker says replacement parts should start arriving in a few days. On Monday, U.S. Toyota sales chief Jim Lentz issued a formal apology. "We are truly sorry for letting them (the customers) down, that nothing is more important to us than their safety and their satisfaction and that we are redoubling our efforts to make sure that this can never happen again," he said.
Toyota's solution is to add a steel bar to the pedal assembly -- eliminating friction that can cause the pedal to stick and cause cars to accelerate without warning. About three quarters of the affected models were sold in the U.S. The recall was later expanded to include vehicles sold in Europe and China. Etienne Plas is the company's spokesman in Europe. "Basically, Toyota has announced that we have found, identified and confirmed a remedy for the pedal issue, the sticking accelerator pedal issue," Plas said. "It's a quite simple solution that will be applied as soon as possible in the U.S. and in Europe to solve this problem.'
Toyota took the unprecedented step last month of suspending sales of affected models, prompting the shut down of five North American plants.
The fix is expected to cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars, but auto analyst Sean Kane says Toyota stands to lose more than just money. "They're at a point where their reputation is rapidly declining and the credibility is rapidly declining in a way that probably no one would have expected," Kane said.
The accelerator recall is separate from an earlier problem involving floor mats that can cause the gas pedal to stick. All told, the combined recalls affect more than eight million vehicles worldwide.
Toyota dealers plan to stay open 24 hours a day to repair affected models -- a process that could take up to five months.
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