Toyota to fix gas pedal on recalled cars due to sudden accelleration issue

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it would fix the gas pedal on four million vehicles the Japanese auto maker recalled in September over sudden acceleration issues related to floor mats causing the pedal to get stuck.

The remedy, which covers eight models of Toyota and Lexus vehicles, is expected to get under way in early 2010, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Department said.

The auto maker plans to change the shape of the gas pedal, alter the floor pan under the pedal in some cases, and install a brake override system in the affected Toyota Camry and Avalon models and the Lexus ES 350, IS 350 and IS 250 models as an “extra measure of confidence.” On Tuesday, Toyota already announced a recall of 110,000 Tundra pickups over a corrosion issue.

The recalls dent Toyota’s reputation of leading in safety and come as the company is in the midst of turnaround efforts after posting its first annual net loss in 59 years in the previous fiscal year.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda in October apologized to the owners of the eight Toyota and Lexus models affected by the floor-mat recall. At that time, Mr. Toyoda said the auto maker was working on identifying the cause of the problem.

“The safety of our owners and the public is our utmost concern,” Mr. Toyota said in a statement. “Toyota has and will continue to thoroughly investigate and take appropriate measures to address any defect trends that are identified.”

Toyota declined to provide an estimate of the recall’s cost. “We have not put a pencil to it,” Toyota spokesman Irv Miller said on a conference call. “We really don’t know what the costs are at this moment.”

Mr. Miller added that the auto maker is confident that these measures have addressed the issue. “We believe that pedal entrapment is the major issue,” Mr. Miller said referring to questions about the vehicles’ electronic control systems as playing a role in the accidents.

Toyota said it would make the brake override system standard equipment in all Toyota and Lexus products starting with January 2010 production of Lexus ES350 and the Camry. It will be incorporated into new production of most models by the end of 2010.

The floor-mat advisory followed a fatal crash in San Diego in September that prompted Toyota to order dealers to inspect cars for mismatched floor mats. The models involved in the recall are: the Camry sedan, the Avalon sedan, the Prius hybrid, the Tacoma small pickup, the Tundra fullsized pickup, the Lexus ES 350, the Lexus IS 250, and the Lexus IS 350, all of varying model years.

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