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Automaker is scrambling

Earl Stewart, owner of Earl Stewart Toyota, shows the faulty accelerator pedal on one of the recalled vehicles Wednesday in North Palm Beach.

Associated Press

Earl Stewart, owner of Earl Stewart Toyota, shows the faulty accelerator pedal on one of the recalled vehicles Wednesday in North Palm Beach.

In the wake of Toyota's recall of 2.3 million U.S. vehicles because of the possibility of the accelerator pedal getting stuck in a partly depressed position or returning slowly to the idle position, as well as its decision to stop selling and building eight models, here are some answers to questions that Toyota owners are likely to have:

What's causing the problem?

Toyota says some gas pedal mechanisms might become worn, and combined with condensation moisture or humidity, the friction in the mechanism might increase and make the pedal stick or become hard to depress.

CTS Corp., which makes the pedal mechanisms, says it is aware of fewer than a dozen instances where that's occurred.

Which vehicles are involved?

The models involved are the 2009-10 Corolla compact sedan, 2009-10 Matrix hatchback, 2007-10 Camry midsize sedan, 2005-10 Avalon large sedan, 2009-10 RAV4 crossover, 2010 Highlander crossover, 2007-10 Tundra pickup and 2008-10 Sequoia sport utility vehicle. The 2009-10 Pontiac Vibe, which is built on the same platform as the Matrix, also is included.

Are there any warnings that this condition exists in my vehicle?

Toyota says the gas pedal gradually becomes harder to depress or is slow to return. In some cases, a rough or chattered feeling when depressing or releasing the gas pedal.

How many times has the problem occurred?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's database shows nearly five dozen complaints on one year's model alone.

Sean Kane of the Massachusetts-based car safety investigation and advocacy group Safety Research and Strategies said his firm has identified 2,274 incidents of unintended acceleration in Toyotas leading to at least 275 crashes and 18 deaths since 1999.

Is this related to the previous announcement that gas pedals were getting stuck under the floor mats in some Toyota vehicles?

This follows a larger U.S. recall months earlier of 4.2 million vehicles because of problems with gas pedals getting trapped under floor mats, causing sudden acceleration.

What if the accelerator gets stuck while I'm driving?

Toyota has sent letters to customers with these recommendations:

If the vehicle continues to accelerate after releasing the gas pedal, this could indicate a trapped floor mat. If it can be done safely, the driver should pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the gas pedal, then pull over and stop the vehicle. If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do not pump the brake pedal repeatedly.

Shift the transmission gear to the neutral position, use the brakes, then make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.

If the vehicle won't shift into neutral, turn the engine off or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to the systems will be lost.

Who do I call for more information?

Call Toyota toll-free at 1-800-331-4331.

Times staff writer Ivan Penn contributed to this report.

Latest news

• Rental car firms Avis Budget Group and Enterprise Holdings on Wednesday said they were pulling thousands of Toyota models covered by the recall from U.S. and Canadian fleets until a fix is available. Avis Budget said the decision was a precaution. Enterprise Holdings, which controls the Enterprise, National and Alamo brands, said it too would pull an unspecified number of Toyota models from its fleet, accounting for about 4 percent of the cars it has in service.

• The UAW and Teamsters unions plan to protest Toyota outside the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., today. The Teamsters said Toyota's decision means "a loss of 5,400 direct jobs and up to 50,000 jobs at suppliers and other supporting businesses. This would be the biggest factory layoff in California since the beginning of the recession. Toyota is also endangering 5,000 middle-class jobs in the car-haul industry."

• General Motors is offering interest-free loans and other incentives to Toyota owners who want to get rid of their cars due to fears about faulty gas pedals. Steve Hill, GM's general manager of retail sales, said Wednesday the company is responding to thousands of inquiries from Toyota owners. The Detroit automaker is offering zero percent financing for 60 months on most models. It also will offer $1,000 to Toyota owners toward a down payment on a GM vehicle and up to $1,000 to help to pay off current leases early.

• CTS, the Indiana auto parts supplier at the crux of the recall, says it has begun shipping replacements to Toyota factories, saying it had made the parts under investigation to Toyota's specifications. CTS said Wednesday that the problem identified by Toyota had been reported "fewer than a dozen" times.

Times wires

Automaker is scrambling 01/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 10:16pm]

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