Thousands of drivers face recall over Toyota fault
Published 29/01/2010 | 05:00
POTENTIALLY thousands of Toyotas will be recalled here over a problem with the accelerator pedal.
Customers with affected cars will be notified from the middle of next week. The company said that if, in the meantime, owners were worried about their cars they could contact their local dealer or ring a special customer relations helpline (01 4190222).
The problem is that there is a possibility certain mechanisms in the accelerator pedal may stick in a partially depressed position. Additionally, the pedal may return slowly to its normal position. That is because the parts which normally let it move smoothly may have become worn. This happens over a period of time and is not something that starts suddenly.
In affected cars, drivers will notice the pedal is progressively harder to depress or is slower to return. A Toyota statement said: "A rough or chattered feeling may also be experienced when depressing or releasing the accelerator pedal."
The company said it did not yet know the number or models involved, but expected to have full information by the middle of next week. A spokesman stressed to the Irish Independent that customers with any concerns should go to their local dealer or contact the helpline. There will be no cost involved for owners. He also confirmed it was possible thousands of Irish cars were involved but could not say so definitively until a full trawl and check had been carried out.
The Irish call-back comes as part of a Europe-wide recall of millions of Toyotas. Company sources have admitted there have been 26 reported instances of the defect in Europe. A Toyota Europe statement said the problem was initially noticed with a small number of cars from the end of 2008 and the company was still confident that the number with problems would be "extremely limited".
It added that the progressive wear, combined with "certain operating and environmental conditions" could lead to the pedal sticking in a partially open position in a worst-case scenario. All of the cars being recalled in North America, Europe and China have pedals made by supplier CTS Corporation, based in Elkhart, Indiana.
Cars sold in Japan do not use the parts in question. However, experts last night said the simple-sounding problem may be far from straightforward and could be a combination of complicated inter-connected conditions.
Toyota insists it is a friction problem in its accelerator pedal mechanisms. CTS, the US supplier, said the friction problem accounts for fewer than a dozen cases of stuck accelerators, "and in no instance did the accelerator actually become stuck in a partially depressed condition".
Raj Rajkumar, head of Carnegie Mellon University's automotive research lab, said: "This is very unusual and happens on a very rare circumstance, and a whole bunch of things have to happen simultaneously."
Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies, said he was certain there was no single cause and he has logged thousands of stuck pedal complaints.
Toyota, a by-word for quality and reliability, said it had not yet determined how many vehicles in Europe would be recalled, or when. But analysts believe two million may be affected, on top of around six million in North America.
Toyota has suspended the sale of eight of its big-selling models in the US until the problem is rectified. Toyota dealers across the US have been swamped with calls from concerned drivers.
In China, the world's biggest auto market in 2009, the carmaker said it had submitted an application to recall more than 75,000 RAV4 vehicles.
Analysts said financial damage to Toyota would depend on how long it has to shut production in the US and how badly consumer confidence hits its American dealer network.
The latest action follows a major recall in the US of 4.2 million vehicles last autumn, due to floor mats interfering with the pedals. Yesterday it extended this recall to another 1.09 million vehicles. Shares in the company fell a further 4pc in Tokyo, taking losses since last week to more than 15pc and wiping about $25bn (e28bn) from the company's value.