Toyota says it has found a fix to its problem of sticky accelerator pedals.
That problem has triggered one of the company's largest recalls — 2.3 million — an unprecedented halt in sales and a public relations headache.
At AutoWay Toyota in Pinellas Park, the repair parts should arrive late this week, said Marc Cannon, senior vice president for AutoNation, the largest Toyota dealer in the country. Customers can start making appointments for the replacement parts by week's end. They will be scheduled to start coming in for service next week.
Cannon said the dealership has sold thousands of affected vehicles and is expecting a rush at its service department. To meet demand, the shop will stay open seven days a week and until midnight on weekdays. The work will take 30 minutes to an hour, he said. The cost will be picked up by Toyota.
"We unequivocally are supportive of Toyota's actions, and appreciate the fact that they put customer safety first," Cannon said.
Amid the avalanche of news reports, some drivers are still scratching their heads over the basics. How does a pedal get "sticky"? And how worried should I be? Here are some answers.
How do I know if my car or truck is affected?
The following eight models in the United States are affected by a recall involving faulty gas pedals: the 2009-10 Corolla compact car, the 2009-10 Matrix hatchback, the 2005-10 Avalon full-size sedan, the 2007-10 Camry midsize sedan, the 2010 Highlander crossover, the 2007-10 Tundra pickup, the 2008-10 Sequoia SUV and the 2009-10 RAV4 crossover.
There are some exceptions. Not all models of the Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander are affected by the recall. All of these models produced in Japan, and some produced in the United States, have accelerators made by another parts supplier whose components are not known to be problematic. Some of these vehicles can be identified by checking the vehicle identification number, or VIN.
All Matrix, Avalon, Tundra and Sequoia models listed above are included in the recall.
What is a VIN and why is it important?
A VIN is a 17-character sequence of numbers and letters that is unique to each vehicle. Your VIN can be seen through the windshield on the front of the driver-side dashboard.
If you drive one of the potential exceptions — the Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander — check the VIN. If it begins with a "J," that means it was produced in Japan and isn't included in the recall. If it does not begin with a J, only a technician can determine if the vehicle has been recalled, so you'll have to take it to a dealership.
Okay, my car is covered by the recall. Now what?
The next step is to have it fixed at a dealership. Starting this week and continuing over the next several weeks, Toyota will send letters to customers telling them when and where they can have their vehicles repaired.
Won't dealers be swamped? How long will it take to get an appointment?
As at AutoWay Toyota in Pinellas Park, other dealers will have extended hours and some will keep their doors open around the clock to fix customer vehicles.
Is my vehicle safe to drive for the time being?
Toyota has said a stuck pedal is very rare. Drivers who have never experienced the problem can continue using their cars until they are instructed to take their model in for repairs, the automaker says.
What should I do if my pedal gets stuck?
Safety experts say the best thing to do if the gas pedal sticks is to hit the brake hard and hold it firmly, then shift into neutral or shut the car off and steer to the curb. They say drivers should not pump the brake.
Suppose I've experienced the problem — should I wait for Toyota to contact me?
No. Drivers who have experienced a sticky or stuck pedal should stop driving their cars and call a Toyota dealer right away. Many dealers are holding these cars and trucks until replacement parts arrive and providing drivers with loaner cars in the meantime.
How long will the repair take?
Toyota says the repair involves about 30 minutes of work.
How long will the repair last?
Toyota says the repair is good for the life of the vehicle and will be warranty-covered.
When will Toyota start making the autos again?
Production of those vehicles, on six assembly lines in the United States and Canada, ceased Monday, but will begin again on Feb. 8, the automaker said.
Didn't Toyota have a problem of floor mats trapping the gas pedal?
In November, Toyota issued a separate recall of 4.2 million vehicles due to a risk of the driver-side floor mat trapping the gas pedal. That recall affects the following models: the 2007-2010 model year Toyota Camry, 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon, 2004-2009 Toyota Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and the 2006-2010 Lexus IS250/IS350.
That recall is still ongoing, and last month, Toyota expanded it by 1.09 million vehicles across five models: 2008-2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2009-2010 Venza, 2009-2010 Matrix, and 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe, which is made by a joint venture of Toyota and General Motors Co.
I still have questions. How can I get them answered?
Toyota has directed customers to www.toyota.com/recall. They can also call the Toyota Customer Experience Center toll-free at 1-800-331-4331. In addition, Consumer Reports has produced a detailed video on how to stop a runaway vehicle at consumerreports.org.
What should I do if I have an accident in a Toyota or Lexus vehicle that I believe may be related to unintended acceleration, or if I have other safety concerns?
Contact Toyota's Customer Experience Center toll-free at 1-800-331-4331.
You can also file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency's Office of Defects Investigation has a hotline that is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST toll-free, 1-888-327-4236.
Or you can file a complaint online at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/.
Information from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times was used in this report.