- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday its dealers should get parts to fix a sticky gas pedal problem by the end of this week as the automaker apologized to customers and tried to bring an end to a recall that has affected 4.2 million vehicles worldwide.

The company said in a statement that it has begun shipping parts and is training dealers on the repairs. Some dealers will stay open round-the-clock to fix the 2.3 million cars and trucks affected by the recall in the U.S.

Technical bulletins on how to install the new parts should arrive at dealers by midweek, the company told dealers in an e-mail. It was not clear exactly when repairs would start, although dealers have said they will begin as soon as possible.

The automaker also said Monday it would end next week its production pause on eight U.S. models affected by the recall, with factories restarting Feb. 8.

Toyota suspended sales of the models last week, but spokesman Mike Michels said dealers can begin selling the cars as soon they are fixed. However, cars already on the road will be the dealers’ first priority, he said in an e-mail.

Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, said in the statement that nothing is more important than customer safety.

In a video clip released by the automaker, Mr. Lentz said he wanted to “sincerely apologize to Toyota owners. I know that our recalls have caused many of you concern and for that I am truly sorry.”

“Toyota has always prided itself on building high-quality, durable cars that customers can depend on and I know that we’ve let you down,” he said.

Mr. Lentz, in an interview on NBC’s “Today,” said the automaker was “confident that we have the fix” for the gas pedal system. He said the company first developed a report on the problems in late October, and he denied that Toyota had delayed addressing the problem.

“I drive Toyotas. My family members drive Toyotas. … I would not have them in products that I knew were not safe,” Mr. Lentz said.

Tammy Darvish, a dealer in the Washington, D.C., area, said she expects to get parts Thursday night or Friday morning, and her dealership will begin repairs immediately, staying open round-the-clock.

Ms. Darvish said she has set up a 24-hour hot line for her 30,000 Toyota customers and had already begun to schedule appointments for later this week. She estimated it could take about two weeks for all the vehicles to be fixed.

“No matter what Toyota does, they always do it right,” Ms. Darvish said. “They might be a little slow in coming out, but that’s because they’re diligent.”

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