Local dealers gear up for the "big fix"

February 1, 2010 5:36:44 PM PST
Monday Toyota promised a relatively simple fix for its gas pedal problem that led to the recall of millions of cars worldwide. Now dealers in the Bay area are gearing up for what they're calling "the big fix." Some are adding technicians, while others plan to add a second shift.

Toyota has mounted a major campaign to repair the accelerator pedals and to repair its reputation with its customers.

"We are truly sorry for letting them down; that nothing is more important to us than their safety and their satisfaction," said Toyota USA president and COO Jim Lentz.

Toyota says the technical bulletins are being distributed. They outline exactly what work needs to be done. The defective part and the replacement are made by the same Indiana vendor, CTS Corporation.

"We have not actually been told how much time it's going to take to complete the repair -- it may be a half-hour, it may be one hour," said Adam Simms, general manager and co-owner of Toyota Sunnyvale. "But it should be a situation where customers can come in, wait, get their car repaired and leave with it right after the repair's done, so they won't have to leave it overnight."

A drawing of the accelerator pedal shows it can be taken out by removing two screws. Toyota says the problem of sudden acceleration occurs when the mechanism gets sticky.

Mark Hovestadt is a certified master mechanic. He works on Swedish cars now, but has worked on Toyotas in the past. He says it can be difficult for a driver to detect the problem.

"If it's sticking when the driver's pressing down on the pedal, he or she may feel it, but if it's sticking at a certain point when it's being let up, the driver may not never know that it's sticking," explained Hovestadt.

The Pontiac Vibe, made at the Fremont NUMMI plant, is part of the recall. General Motors said it has not received any complaints of sudden acceleration with the Vibe.

In the meantime, Consumer reports has suspended its recommendation of the recalled Toyotas.

"We want to make sure that consumers are able to buy good quality, safe, reliable vehicles," said Jeff Bartlett of Consumer Reports.

The owner of Toyota Sunnyvale says he estimates his shop will be replacing pedals on 7,000 vehicles -- a formidable task.