Sorting through Toyota's recall
Brake issues with the Prius hybrid only adds to Toyota's troubles as it recalls almost eight million cars for safety problems.
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After reported links to 19 deaths and many injuries, Toyota recalled almost 8 million cars for safety problems with floor mats and sticky accelerators. The owners of models that are subject to recall are waiting for notices to take their cars in for repair.
On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told drivers of those models to park their cars. "My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it," he said. "Take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have a fix for it."
Hours later, LaHood said he misspoke he retracted the warning.
Justin Hyde, Washington Bureau Reporter for the "Detroit Free Press," said LaHood's statement was unprecedented and only creates more confusion for car owners.
"In most recalls, people are advised to keep driving until they can get into a dealership and have the part fixed," said Hyde. "There's only been a few cases -- I'm only aware of one in recent memory -- where an automaker told someone who owned a car to park it and they'd come and tow it to the dealership because the safety problem was so severe that they couldn't drive it.
"It would create a headaches for Toyota dealers, owners and the automaker to try to fix 5.6 million vehicles immediately. They've said already that this recall is going to take months to fix out totally."
Hyde says data released from Toyota and the federal government show the occurances of the problem with the cars seem to be rare, and the average driver can get by if they're mindful of the position of the floor mat and the motion of the accelerator pedal.
Electronics are now also under investigation, and concerns are being raised about the braking system on the hybrid Prius. According to Hyde, there have been about 140 complaints about the occurrence of a lurch when a car is driven over a bump, and the government plans to review the issue.
Paul Lunsford, co-owner and general manager of South Coast Toyota in Costa Mesa, CA, says his dealership is starting its accelerator fix immediately and will deal with the floor mats next week. But his first order of business is to identify which cars are part of the recall.
He says Japanese production cars, those with VIN numbers that start with a J, aren't part of the recall. Also not included in the recall are hybrids, and Camrys with Denso pedals (as opposed to CTS pedals).
"The repair itself is supposed to take about a half hour, so it's a relatively quick repair," said Lunsford.
Toyota's image has taken a hit with the recalls. According to Peter De Lorenzo, Founder and Publisher of AutoExtremist.com, the company has become what it has desperately tried to avoid: Just another car company.
"The word quality that used to be associated with Toyota is not automatically there anymore," said De Lorenzo. "A giant doubt has been placed in people's minds about the company."
De Lorenzo thinks the effects could be devastating for Toyota and may last for years to come. "I don't know if it's justified or not. I do know that in this media-intensive world we live in today, where there's no time limit on anything and everything is instantaneous, people seem for form solid opinions in a moment's notice. And Toyota's not used to this."
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