Toyota Motor Corp started shipping parts on Monday to U.S. dealers who were prepared to stay open late to fix vehicles that are affected by the most damaging recall in the automaker's history.
Toyota's U.S. sales chief Jim Lentz offered penance and apology in a series of television interviews on Monday as the carmaker sought to keep consumers confident in the brand long known for quality and reliability.
Most of the 2.3 million vehicles recalled for having accelerators that could stick, and another 120,000 on dealer lots will have a metal part installed that Toyota told dealers was a shim or spacer.
The beauty of the fix is that it doesn't take much time, spokesman Mike Michels said, adding that many of Toyota's 1,200 U.S. dealerships will stay open around-the-clock.
A lot of our dealers are going to stay open 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, Michels said. They are proving quite creative in setting up something like an assembly line to speed repairs.
The biggest U.S. dealer group in terms of Toyota sales, AutoNation Inc, said it was going to move to such a schedule at some of its dealerships.
The fix takes about 30 minutes, and will be paid for by Toyota under warranty payments to dealers.
However, vehicles that cannot be fixed will receive newly designed pedals made by CTS or another Toyota supplier, Denso, but most of the new pedals will go on new cars and trucks once production resumes, Toyota said.
Meanwhile, production of the eight models involved in the sticking accelerator safety recall was set to resume February 8, after a one-week shutdown.
Toyota can restart production of those recalled models, including the best-selling Camry and Corolla sedans, because it now has enough of the newly designed pedals as well as repair parts, the company told Reuters.
Since we now have an adequate supply of complete pedals for urgent customer needs and non-repairable pedals, as well as rapid deployment of repair parts, we plan to resume (production) February 8, Michels said in an email to Reuters.
Toyota, which ranks second in U.S. auto sales behind General Motors Co, halted sales of the affected models on January 26. Production of the same models at six U.S. and Canadian plants was stopped on Monday for a week.
Stopping production is never an easy decision, but we are 100 percent confident it was the right decision, Toyota's Lentz said in a statement.
We know what's causing the sticking accelerator pedals, and we know what we have to do to fix it, Lentz said. We deeply regret the concern that our recalls have caused for our customers, and we are doing everything we can -- as fast as we can -- to make things right.
Last week, Toyota said some 14,000 workers were affected by the production-line stoppage, but employees would report to work for training classes or take vacation this week. Toyota said no one would lose any pay over the stopped production.
Toyota said it has developed and rigorously tested a solution that involves reinforcing the pedal assembly in a manner that eliminates the excess friction that has caused the pedals to stick in some instances.
The smooth roll-out of the fix could lead to a resumption of sales of models including its biggest seller Camry, by the third week of February, sources briefed on the plan said on Friday. Toyota has not provided a time-frame for resuming sales.
The faulty pedals from Toyota supplier CTS Corp are involved in the current sales and production suspension and 2.3 million recalled consumer-owned cars and about 120,000 at dealerships.
Separately from the recall surrounding sticking accelerator pedal issues, Toyota was also in the process of recalling vehicles to address a risk that floor mats can jam under accelerator pedals, causing unintended acceleration, which may be deadly.
In both recalls, Toyota has called back 5.4 million vehicles in the United States. Another 1.8 million have been recalled due to the sticking accelerators in Europe and 75,000 in China.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Soyoung Kim; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)