Dealers are still selling cars covered by the throttle recall

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - 6:12pm

Toyota says it still is making cars and trucks with potentially sticking accelerator-pedal assemblies that triggered a recall last Thursday of 2.3 million Toyota-brand cars and trucks.

The automaker, reeling from its second throttle-related recall in three months, previously had said it continues to sell the vehicles and that it believes they are risk-free when new.

But it was unclear whether Toyota was still building the models.

"We're still making these cars," Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said late Monday. "At some point in time, we'll be faced with the decision - a 'stop' decision," he said.

Current model-year vehicles are included in the recall, which spans 2005 to 2010 models. Exact years depend on specific models. Toyota says it has no remedy yet to prevent throttles from sticking open, but says it happens rarely and only after age and wear.

Toyota (TM) eventually will have to ask owners to bring new vehicles back in for the recall remedy. That could cost millions of dollars and annoy owners.

Too, if Toyota's wrong about the pedals being immune to sticking open until they age and wear, the new vehicles could be involved in accidents.

Wealthy Toyota is "the one car company that can afford" to halt production for a few weeks until a remedy is found, says James Bell, executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, which tracks the auto industry.

The problem is with gas-pedal assemblies from CTS, a multinational auto components supplier.

The company, which supplies components for several automakers, is based in Elkhart, Ind., but the suspect parts came from its plant in Streetsville, Ontario, according to documents Toyota filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA says it's waiting for a reply to its letter asking CTS whether sold similar pedal assemblies to other automakers.

CTS hasn't returned calls asking for comment. It is to report fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday. Through three quarters, it lost $38.2 million on sales of $365 million. Nine-month results in 2008 were a profit of $23.1 million on revenue of $529 million.

The sticking-pedal recall is unrelated to a recall last November of 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus models with gas pedals that can get jammed wide-open by floor mats.

Other recall-related developments:

•Toyota has been flooded with owner calls, so many that callers are directed to a website here that answers frequently asked questions.

"It was all hands on deck," Lyons says, to work the phones at what Toyota calls its Customer Experience Center (800-331-4331).

•Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported Monday that Toyota will recall 2 million cars in Europe for the same pedal problem. A Toyota statement said that no decision has been made.

•Lawyers already are suing Toyota, claiming it should fix the cars right away or take them back.

Richard McCune, an attorney in Redlands, Calif., has filed a lawsuit for which he is seeking class-action status.

He says he believes there have been at least 2,000 recorded instances of unintended acceleration in Toyotas, more than have been reported to safety agencies or Toyota itself.