Toyota to Replace Gas Pedals -- If Customers Complain

Toyota to Replace Gas Pedals -- If Customers Complain
Toyota to Replace Gas Pedals -- If Customers Complain

As if the numerous recalls involving Toyota Motor (TM) vehicles weren't already complicated enough, the automaker has told dealers that owners who aren't happy with repairs to accelerators pedals can swap them for new ones -- but only if customers complain, according to Toyota memo obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press.

The world's largest automaker has received dozens of complaints about the repairs, which involve some 4 million cars in the U.S. that were recalled in January to address unintended acceleration caused by "sticky" gas pedals. The fix involves placing a metal shim between gas pedal parts to ameliorate the sticking sensation that some owners have reported.

"A replacement pedal should only be offered to a customer after the reinforcement bar has been installed and the customer has expressed dissatisfaction with the operation and/or feel of the pedal," Toyota said in a memo to dealers, service managers and parts managers, AP reported.

According to the news agency, the February 2010 memo said the pedal replacement "is based upon specific customer request only. Dealers are not to solicit pedal replacement." The New York Times first reported about the memo.

[Update: In a press release issued late Tuesday, Toyota says the letter obtained by some media outlets has been misinterpreted. "Toyota is confident that the remedies it has announced to address sticking accelerator pedals and floor mat entrapment represent a comprehensive solution to these issues," the company says. "However, if a customer is not satisfied with the modification to his or her repaired accelerator pedal, dealers will replace it at no charge."]

Number of Complaints About Repairs Is "Very Low"

Toyota is replacing the pedals at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which asked that replacements be provided as part of the recall, Toyota spokesman Brian R. Lyons told the Times. More than 60 complaints have been logged by Toyota owners who have had the repairs and afterward experienced unintended acceleration in their vehicles.

Toyota has so far repaired 1.3 million vehicles. The number of consumer complaints about the repairs is "very low," Lyons told the Times. "There have been cases where the pedal feel was not satisfactory to the consumer or the dealer," he said. "In those cases, a new pedal has been put in."

The recall is separate from one involving bulky floor mats that may pin the gas pedal to the floor, although some vehicles are subject to both recalls. That repair involves trimming gas pedals to shorten their length, and in some models, reshaping the area of the floor beneath the pedal.

Toyota officials have repeatedly denied that electronics could be a source of unintended acceleration, which federal regulators blame for more than 50 deaths of passengers in Toyota vehicles.