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Toyota Announces Repair Strategy for Recalled Vehicles

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Detroit, MNThis morning Toyota announced its strategy to fix the millions of its recalled vehicles that were built with unsafe or poorly-performing accelerator pedals.

Toyota announced that it would be installing a steel reinforcement bar into the pedal assembly in an effort to reduce the surface tension that caused it to stick. Toyota claims that its engineers have rigorously tested the remedy and remain confident that it will do the trick.

Repairs begin this week, with some dealerships planning to stay open 24 hours to get the job done.

The repair addresses two separate but related problems in the wake of several massive recalls. 4.1 million of the recalled vehicles are outfitted with worn pedals that can become hard to depress, stuck partially depressed or slow to spring back. Five and a half million vehicles have a design flaw that causes the pedal to become trapped beneath the floor mat. Several different Toyota and Lexus models were included in the recalls.

The New York Times reported this morning that nearly eight million vehicles have been recalled globally since November. Of those, about six million are located in the US.

As Toyota initiates its strategy to commence repairs, its public relations machine has been working overtime to help the beleaguered automaker get back on the road to respectability.

Yesterday Toyota took out full-page ads in more than 20 major newspapers across the US, explaining the situation and its decision to halt production in the interest of safety, even though US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reportedly told a Chicago radio station that Toyota had halted production "because we asked them to."

James Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA is currently featured in a two-minute video posted on the automaker's website. A number of Toyota executives and engineers made the rounds on the morning TV talk show circuit this morning, and Lentz himself was featured as the first guest on the highly-rated "Today Show." He told host Matt Lauer that while unprecedented growth may have laid the groundwork for the problem, he denied that Toyota had ever set out to be the number one automaker. Rather, Toyota wanted to be number one in the eyes and hearts of its customers.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety and reliability of the vehicles our customers drive," 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. Stopping production is never an easy decision, but we are 100 percent confident it was the right decision. We know what's causing the sticking accelerator pedals, and we know what we have to do to fix it."

The debacle has had a decided impact. Dealers have been unable to fill orders and even sell vehicles they have inventoried on their lots, while millions of current Toyota owners fear their vehicles are not safe to drive. Rival car makers have jumped into the fray by offering discounts of as much as $1000 to entice Toyota owners to trade in their cars for a different vehicle.

Edmunds.com predicts that sales figures for January, which will be released tomorrow, will show that Toyota's market share has fallen to its lowest level in four years.

The automaker is mailing out recall notices to customers but admits it may take weeks for them all to be distributed. It has asked customers to wait until receiving the official recall notice in the mail before attempting to make an appointment for a repair.

It was not mentioned if the reinforcement bar remedy would be used in future Toyota vehicles as well as those that are already built or on the road. Toyota said it is currently training employees to make the repair.

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