RPT-UPDATE 1-Toyota US head: Little sales impact from heated seat woes

Thu Feb 6, 2014 11:23am EST

CHICAGO Feb 6 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp's U.S. head said on Thursday that a problem with heated seats that has forced the company to halt sales of several vehicle models in the United States would weigh on the automaker's February sales but he predicted the negative effect would be minor.

Talking to reporters at the Chicago Auto Show, Bob Carter, the head of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc, said the sales halt - which was announced late last month and remains in place - affected about 30,000 vehicles on dealer lots and would have a "very minor impact" on the company's February U.S. sales.

Carter did not rule out the possibility that the sales stop could be escalated to a recall, saying the issue was in the hands of the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The stop-sale order, which includes some top-selling Camry and Corolla models, was triggered after Toyota learned that some of the fabrics used in the heated seats were not as flame resistant as required by law.

"It's a small percent of our current inventories," Carter said. "Those cars will start being repaired this week and it will take us a couple of weeks to get all the parts available."

Asked if he knew how many of the affected vehicles were in customer hands, Carter said: "I don't know that right now."

Carter said that Toyota, which began exporting U.S.-made vehicles in 1988 and sent 130,000 of those vehicles overseas last year, expected to export a similar number of U.S.-made vehicles in 2014.

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