Toyota Motor Corp is consulting with U.S. safety regulators on a fix that would allow it to avoid the more costly option of shipping brand new accelerators for over 2 million Americans with vehicles under recall, two people briefed on the talks said.
A spokesman for Toyota confirmed that the company had been in close consultation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over a proposed fix for the problem of accelerator pedals that can become stuck with wear.
The proposed remedy under discussion with U.S. officials would involve shipping a spacer or a shim to Toyota's dealers in the United States, the sources said.
The new part would increase the tension in the accelerator and help prevent sticking, Toyota engineers believe, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because an announcement has not been made.
Toyota spokesman Mike Michels declined to comment on the proposed repair.
I cannot discuss what the nature of the remedy is. It may be scrapped entirely, Michels said.
Toyota has not yet determined whether it will also ship new accelerator pedals to its dealers from supplier CTS Corp to speed implementation of the recall.
CTS, based in Elkhart, Indiana, has been working with Toyota to design an accelerator pedal that will fix the problem that prompted the massive recall.
CTS said on Thursday that it was building a new assembly line to ramp up production of the new pedals to help Toyota restart its own production more quickly.
Last week, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles that it said may have a faulty accelerator pedal that sticks. Toyota is the largest automaker in the world.
It said this week that it was stopping sales of the eight models covered by the recall until a fix was in place.
At the same time, Toyota said it would suspend production of the models including the top-selling Camry at five plants for at least a week.
In consultations with U.S. dealers on Thursday, Toyota said it would take months to complete repairs on the recalled vehicles since it would send notices to affected customers in batches of ten thousand to avoid overrunning repair shops.
Obviously, the dealers couldn't handle everybody coming all at once. So that does have to take place over time. This volume of vehicles will obviously take a number of months. I don't have an estimate on that, Michels said.
Some dealers said they were making plans to hire additional staff or extend their hours to handle repairs.
This is Toyota's largest recall. The financial impact it will have on the company depends on how long it affects production, analysts said.
The cost to repair each vehicle with a shim or spacer at a U.S. dealership should be less than $100, people briefed on the preliminary discussions have said.
That would take the total warranty cost of the recall to near $230 million. It could cost more and run longer if Toyota decides that every accelerator has to be replaced instead of being repaired.
The cost of producing the accelerators at the center of the recall was about $15 each in 2009, according to sales data from CTS and Toyota.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Toni Reinhold)