By David Thomas on January 21, 2010
These are uncertain times for the people who own the 2.3 million Toyota and Pontiac vehicles recalled yesterday for a defective accelerator pedal. This latest recall comes after several reports of Toyota cars that accelerated uncontrollably, including one tragic case where a family died after the loaner they were driving went out of control in Southern California. We talked with Toyota’s John Hanson, national manager for environmental safety and quality, to clarify a number of questions.
How do I know my car has a problem now?
Hanson says, “The accelerator might feel a little balky or stiff or rough when you depress it. The pedal may be slow to return to its original position after you let up on it. It won’t spring back like it used to.” If you notice any of these symptoms contact your dealer immediately. The problem is progressive, meaning if you feel a slight change, it likely will get worse over time. Is there a fix for the problem?
Toyota has yet to announce how they will fix the problem. If owners experience any sort of unusual feedback from the accelerator pedal they should call their dealer immediately for a diagnosis and repair. Hanson could not confirm that replacing the worn assembly with a new one is what dealers are being told to do, but that fix should delay problems until differently sourced units arrive.
What if my dealer can’t or won’t fix the problem?
Hanson says dealers have been instructed to take vehicles on a case-by-case basis, and if owners are concerned that their vehicle wasn’t properly treated by the dealer, they should call Toyota Customer Service at 800-331-4331.
Are all the vehicles in the recall prone to unintended acceleration?
Each car is equipped with the faulty system, Hanson said, but the recall is the result of a wear issue, meaning it takes a certain amount of use before problems arise. Hanson could not give a time frame or mileage driven that owners can look for to know if their car is at risk. The vehicles known to have the issue all vary in those regards, which he says was one reason it took so long to diagnose the problem. If you just bought a new Toyota, it will likely take time for a problem to occur, but, again, there is no known mileage or time because climate and daily use can impact the amount of wear.
Are new cars with the faulty system still being sold on dealer lots?
No, Toyota announced it has stopped selling all models included in the recall.
Is Toyota still building new models involved in the recall?
Yes, but production will halt on Feb. 1. Those vehicles assembled before then will not go on sale.
When will more information be available about a fix?
Developing a solution may take some time, but Hanson said more information about the process would likely be announced in a few weeks. Hanson said Toyota is working “rapidly” to develop a fix.
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David