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A decade or two ago, a massive auto recall always seemed to involve an American manufacturer. No longer.
After announcing the largest auto recall in US history last fall to fix sudden acceleration problems, Toyota late Thursday announced an additional recall of some 2.3 million vehicles. The announcement was made after ABC News told the Japanese automaker that it was going to air a report about more Toyota sudden-acceleration problems.
The problem: The accelerator can stick when it's pushed down. “Our investigation indicates that there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position," Irv Miller, a group vice president for Toyota Motor Sales, said in a press release. (Click here for the full release.)
Is your Toyota at risk? Here's a list of models involved in the latest recall:
If you own one of those vehicles, here's what Toyota suggests you do. First, don't panic.
"The possibility of this happening is very rare," says John Hanson, a Toyota spokesman. The problem involves a specific accelerator pedal assembly from a specific supplier. And it happens over time, not overnight.
"This is a wear issue," he says. "The owner will begin to feel that the accelerator is a little rough when they push it down. It doesn't operate as smoothly as it used to."
At that first sign of trouble, owners should call their dealer to get the problem looked at. They can also call Toyota's customer hot line at 800-331-4331 for more information.
If owners don't address the problem, it can get worse, the company warns. The accelerator may begin to come up more slowly after it has been depressed. And in rare instances, the company says, that situation will devolve into it sticking in that depressed condition.
(If ever the accelerator does stick, brake firmly and steadily -- no pumping -- and steer the car to the nearest safe location, Toyota says. Turn the engine off and contact a Toyota dealer.)
Because the company issued the recall so suddenly (probably as a result of the upcoming ABC report), it was still scrambling Friday morning to respond to customer questions. A call to Toyota's call center Friday morning yielded only a recorded message saying the call center couldn't respond at that time. Similary, Boston-area Toyota dealers said they hadn't yet received guidance about how to fix the problem.
"We're at least a month away from sending official notices" to owners, Mr. Hanson says. "We don't have the specific remedy for [the problem] developed fully yet."
But dealers as of Friday will be getting guidance from Toyota about how to deal with customer concerns, Hanson adds.
The recall is separate from the acceleration problems caused by floor mats jamming the accelerator, a problem for which Toyota issued a recall in November. The vehicles involved in that recall are the 2007-10 Camry, 2005-10 Avalon, 2004-09 Prius, 2005-10 Tacoma, 2007-10 Tundra, 2007-10 ES 350, 2006-10 IS 250, and 2006-10 IS 350. (To view more information about that recall, click here.)
Nevertheless, some 1.7 million of the 2.3 million Toyotas being recalled this month have both problems, the company says, and should be taken to a dealer.
The latest in a string of Toyota recall mars the automaker's quality image. If you own a recalled Toyota model, there are steps you can take.