New York - Does Toyota's Problem Go Beyond Pedals?
New York - Toyota is gearing up for the mother of all repair jobs. The company said Monday that parts to fix its dangerous faulty gas pedal problem are on the way to dealers.
Toyota has recalled more than 5.5 million vehicles in this country. And as CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports, the fix outlined today only covers 2.3 million of them.
Toyota says it should take trained mechanics no more than 30 minutes to fix its sticky gas pedal, but repairing its reputation could take a while longer.
An attempt to shift its image out of reverse took place today with a multi-media mea culpa.
“I am very sorry that this has taken place,” Jim Lentz, the head of Toyota in the U.S. said. “I know that we have let you down.”
Toyota’s engineers said a friction device in the pedal assembly which is supposed to give drivers the right feel when stepping on the gas can wear down and - in rare cases - catch and keep the accelerator open.
Now a steel reinforcement bar called a shim will be inserted to eliminate that excess friction. According to Toyota, the pedal should feel the same to drivers.
“This has been tested and it is a long term fix,” Letnz said.
Service bulletins will reach Toyota dealerships Tuesday or Wednesday and repairs could start soon thereafter - though servicing all of the recalled vehicles could take months.
“We’re already taking appointments,” said Brian Weinberg, general manager of Grossinger Toyota in Chicago.
Weinberg has hired 20 additional mechanics for the rush repairs. “We’re gonna pretty much double our staff and extend our service hours so that we can do 300-500 repairs per day,” he said.
But some industry analysts and safety advocates say the problem is bigger than a pedal. They note that the federal government has done eight investigations of sudden, unexplained acceleration in Toyotas over the last seven years and none identified a stuck gas pedal as a potential cause.
They point to Toyota’s onboard electronics - the sensors and microprocessors that control the car’s throttle - which they say could be sending the wrong and potentially lethal signals.
“It is a multi-faceted problem that has multiple root causes, which is why we anticipate that this problem is going to continue even after these accelerator pedals have been replaced,” said Sean Kane of the company Safety Research and Strategies.
But Lentz says the critics are wrong. In his words, the company is “very, very confident that it is not an electronics issue.”
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