Toyota Motor Corp said production of eight models involved in a safety recall would resume on February 8, as it detailed plans to fix 2.4 million vehicles and sought to salvage its reputation with a PR blitz.
Toyota, whose reputation for quality and reliability helped it overtake General Motors as the world's top carmaker, is facing criticism for moving too slowly to address a fault that causes unintended and dangerous acceleration.
But on Monday the company said it was confident it had found a fix for 2.4 million vehicles, and could resume production of eight models, including the best-selling Camry, on February 8.
Including recalls in China and Europe, 8 million Toyota vehicles are up for repair globally, including a separate problem involving floor mats and pedals.
The carmaker said it would install a steel reinforcement bar at U.S. Toyota dealerships this week. Sources said on Friday a smooth rollout of the fix could lead to a resumption of sales of models including the Camry in the third week of February.
Speaking to The Today Show on NBC, Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA and a 28-year veteran at the carmaker, on Monday said the company was confident it had found a fix for 2.4 million affected vehicles.
Hiroaki Osakabe, a fund manager at Chibagin Asset management, said: This (recall) was expanded across the globe and has really put Toyota under the spotlight.
This could hurt Toyota's brand image, and there's definitely concern about a longer-term damage to the image ... It could also affect Toyota's overall competitiveness.
Toyota Motor Sales USA was due to hold a conference call for media at 11:00 a.m. EST.
On Sunday, Toyota, which reports its third-quarter results on Thursday, kicked off a media blitz with full-page ads in major U.S. newspapers alerting consumers to the recall and production shutdown that will last at least a week.
MIDDLE EAST MAY BE AFFECTED
The recall, which covers almost 1.9 million cars in Europe and China that use faulty accelerator pedals made by U.S. supplier CTS Corp, has spread to some PSA Peugeot Citroen cars made at a joint Toyota-PSA factory in the Czech Republic.
Referring to the Toyota and Peugeot recalls, Societe Generale analysts said the debacle did not call into question carmakers' strategy of sharing costs by using joint platforms and parts across several models.
If you weigh up the risks and the rewards, it's worth exposing yourself to the risks, which remain minimal, from time to time.
Toyota said on Monday an unknown number of vehicles in the Middle East were also fitted with defective accelerators, but the problems seen elsewhere were unlikely to occur there because of the difference in climate.
Toyota said it was studying the necessary remedy for the two models in the Middle East.
Fears of a heavy and protracted blow to Toyota's sales and bottom line have knocked about $20 billion from its market value in the last week.
Toyota shares fell 1.2 percent on Monday, but fared better than local rivals Honda Motor Co, which lost 2.5 percent, and Nissan Motor, which shed 2 percent.
In contrast, shares of South Korean rivals rose on Monday amid prospects of customer gains and data showing further strong sales in January.
Hyundai Motor Co added 2.7 percent after its overseas sales in January jumped 46 percent from a year earlier, while Kia Motors Corp surged 5.6 percent after reporting record sales.
Recent negative newsflows on Toyota point to an opportunity for Hyundai Motor to increase their market share overseas, said Kong Jeong-ho, an analyst at Prudential Investment & Securities.
Edmunds.com, an online automotive research site, expects Toyota's U.S. sales in January to fall 12 percent, giving it a market share of 14.7 percent, near a four-year low and down 3.2 percentage points from a year earlier.
Hyundai has launched a Toyota-targeted incentive program, joining GM, Ford Motor Co and others in a similar plan.
(Additional reporting by Elaine Lies and Mayumi Negishi in TOKYO; Jungyoun Park in SEOUL; John Crawley and David Morgan in WASHINGTON and Gilles Guillaume in PARIS; Additional Writing by Helen Massy-Beresford; Editing by Lincoln Feast)