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Toyota begins correction of faulty gas pedals

Published:Tuesday | February 2, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Toyota Motor Corp said Monday its dealers should get parts to fix a sticky gas-pedal problem by the end of this week as the automaker apologised to customers and tried to bring an end to a recall that has affected 4.2 million vehicles worldwide.

The company said in a statement that it has begun shipping parts and is training dealers on the repairs. Some dealers will stay open 24 hours to fix the 2.3 million cars and trucks affected by the recall in the United States (US).

Technical bulletins on how to install the new parts should arrive at dealers by midweek, the company told dealers in an email.

It was not clear exactly when repairs would start, although dealers have said they'll begin as soon as possible.

The automaker also said Monday it would extend the suspension on production of eight US models affected by the recall for this week.

The company suspended sales of the models last week until repairs can be made.

Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, said in the statement that nothing is more important than customer safety.

In a video clip released by the automaker, Lentz said he wanted to "sincerely apologise to Toyota owners. I know that our recalls have caused many of you concern and for that I am truly sorry."

"Toyota has always prided itself on building high-quality, durable cars that customers can depend on and I know that we've let you down," Lentz said.

Lentz, in an interview on NBC's Today, said the automaker was "confident that we have the fix" for the gas-pedal system. He said the company first developed a report on the problems in late October, and he denied that Toyota had delayed addressing the problem.

"I drive Toyotas. My family members drive Toyotas ... I would not have them in products that I knew were not safe," Lentz said.

Toyota recalled the vehicles on January 21, determining that excess friction in the gas pedal assembly could, in rare cases, cause the pedals to stick.

Engineers traced the problem to a friction device in the assembly that is supposed to provide the proper pedal "feel" by adding resistance, Toyota said in a statement.

The device has a shoe that rubs against a nearby metal surface during normal pedal use. But wear and environmental conditions can, over time, cause the pedals to not operate smoothly or, in rare cases, stick partially open.

The company said a steel reinforcement bar will be installed, reducing the friction.

The recall in the US includes: 2009-10 RAV4 crossover; 2009-10 Corolla; 2009-10 Matrix hatchback; 2005-10 Avalon; 2007-10 Camry; 2010 Highlander crossover; 2007-10 Tundra pickup; and 2008-10 Sequoia SUV.

It also has been expanded to another 1.9 million vehicles in Europe and China.

Toyota said that not all the models of Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander listed in the recall have the faulty gas pedals, which were made by CTS Corp of Elkhart, Indiana.

Dealers can tell which models have the CTS pedals.

Models made in Japan, and some models built in the US, have pedal systems made by another parts supplier, Denso Corp, which function well.

All Matrix, Avalon, Tundra and Sequoia models covered by the recall have the faulty pedals.

Toyota announced late Friday that it would begin shipping new gas pedal systems to dealers as well.

The pedal recall is separate from another recall involving floor mats that can bend and push down accelerators. The two recalls combined affect more than seven million vehicles worldwide.

The repairs will not bring an end to public scrutiny on how Toyota handled the problems.

The US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is launching an investigation.

A February 10 hearing is scheduled and Yoshi Inaba, chairman and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor North America, has been asked to testify.

Separately, a House investigative panel is planning a February 25 hearing.

-AP