DETROIT Toyota Motor Corp has told U.S. dealers it will pay for a secondary repair related to a massive safety recall on its top-selling Camry for sticking accelerator pedals.
In a bulletin sent to its U.S. dealers on Tuesday, Toyota said it would pay to repair a bracket holding the accelerator pedal in place on the Camry sedan and the more expensive Avalon if that part is damaged while the recall work is being done.
Toyota's notice to dealers represents the latest complication in a high-profile safety recall that was ordered by U.S. safety regulators in January.
That recall of about 2.3 million vehicles in the United States, including the Camry and the Avalon, took aim at the risk that accelerator pedals could become stuck in place or trap floormats.
In some cases, repair technicians at Toyota dealerships inadvertently stripped bolts on the accelerator bracket in the Camry and Avalon when performing the recall, Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons said.
Toyota's service bulletin on how to repair the accelerator bracket in such a case under warranty was not immediately made public. A copy was obtained by Reuters.
Toyota said it would pay for dealerships to perform a repair expected to take about 40 minutes if the initial recall damaged the bracket.
Lyons said the secondary damage had been "extremely rare on a handful of vehicles."
Lyons said no Toyota owners had driven away with loose bolts on the accelerator after having the recall repair completed. "It's nothing the consumer would ever experience," he said.
In April, Toyota agreed to pay a record $16.4 million fine for delaying the recall of the defective accelerator pedals in the U.S. market.
As of November 22, Toyota had repaired about 1.9 million vehicles in the U.S. market for the sticky pedal problem, which as more than 80 percent of the vehicles recalled, Lyons said. Toyota's U.S. shares were up with the rest of the market on Wednesday, with Toyota up 2.5 percent and the S&P 500 Index up 2.2 percent in midafternoon.
SAFETY CRISIS FALLOUT
Only the Camry and the Avalon are at risk for a repair damaging the bolts on the accelerator bracket assembly because the other vehicles recalled use a different system.
Lyons said Toyota's own data showed that customers were very satisfied with the fixes to the accelerator under the recall that involved cutting the bottom of the pedal and adding a shim to keep it from sticking.
Records of consumer complaints by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that several dozen Camry and Avalon drivers have complained about the feel of the repaired accelerator pedals after the recall.
Fallout from the safety crisis has damaged Toyota's once market-leading reputation for quality and safety and cost it sales in the U.S. markets, analysts have said.
In response, Toyota has created a new executive team focused on quality that reports to Chief Executive Akio Toyoda, devoted more engineers to quality management and slowed the pace of vehicle development program.
Last month, a federal judge in California ruled that a class-action suit on behalf of about 40 million consumers seeking economic damages from the automaker could proceed.
The automaker has also rolled out incentive programs to win back American consumers, including a heavily touted "Toyota Care" program that promises car shoppers free maintenance and roadside assistance for two years.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall and Kevin Krolicki, editing by Matthew Lewis)