In an unprecedented decision, Toyota has announced that it will halt sales, and production, of eight models covered under a recent recall for a problem concerning unintended acceleration. The move means that Toyota dealers are unable to sell some of the company's most successful and popular models, due to a highly-publicized potential defect that may have led to one or more deadly crashes.
The recall affects 2.3 million vehicles in which the accelerator pedal can stick, causing the cars to accelerate out of the driver’s control. A previous recall affecting 4.3 million vehicles in late 2008 dealt with a similar issue. In that case, Toyota determined the cause of the previous recall to be an improperly secured floor mat. In this case, the company has not yet identified the cause of the defect.
“Toyota said the new problem could occur without any floor mat in place,” explains the Detroit Free Press. “The automaker does not have a fix for the problem nor an estimate of when one will be available, and warns customers to hold down the brakes if their accelerator pedals become stuck.”
Until a solution is found, Toyota will discontinue sales and production of the affected vehicles. It will cease production at the four or five affected North American plants the week of Feb. 1. According to the New York Times, “the models affected accounted for more than 1 million sales in 2009, 57 percent of Toyota’s total for the year.”
The affected vehicles are:
Certain 2007-2010 Camrys
Autoblog notes, "The Camry Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid are not included in the sales suspension. Toyota has also reiterated that no Lexus or Scion models are included as these cars are built in Japan."
The production and sales halt is one of the largest ever for a major automaker – and experts are questioning what type of effect it may have. The Washington Post calls it a “huge setback” and quotes Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Edmunds.com, as saying: "This is unprecedented. In the past we have seen an automaker stop production of one specific vehicle or two. … We've never seen an automaker pull the sales of so many models."
Toyota dealerships are left unable to sell many of their most popular models, and thanks to the production halt, could face a shortage of the cars in the future even after the problem has been resolved, as factories need to be restarted to rebuild supply.
There’s no doubt that safety proponents will applaud Toyota’s decision. But only time will tell whether customers will express their appreciation by purchasing Toyota vehicles in the future, or if media coverage of the decision will do serious damage to the company’s quality reputation.