Local dealerships begin Toyota pedal fix

February 3, 2010 5:56:36 PM PST
Toyota dealerships in the Bay Area have started the huge job of repairing recalled accelerators in millions of cars. It is a relatively simple fix that takes no more than an hour per vehicle but confusion and fear went into high gear Wednesday morning after the transportation secretary appeared on Capitol Hill.

"If anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to a Toyota dealer because they believe they have a fix for it," Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said.

LaHood later backed off that advice, but the message was out. At Sunnyvale Toyota, worried customers jammed the phone lines.

"We're getting eight calls at a time and everybody was like, 'I can't believe you're telling us to drive our cars when they're telling us not to drive it.' We just know what we heard from Toyota and that's what we have to go on," customer relations manager Stefanie Modos said.

Toyota quickly issued a statement telling customers despite the recall of 2.3 million cars in the U.S. alone, the accelerator problem is rare and, "If you are not experiencing any issues with your pedal, we are confident your vehicle is safe to drive."

Armando Gascon bought a 2010 Corolla and is not convinced.

"I mean come on, they say continue driving, but if it gets stuck I can get hurt real bad," he said.

Dealers say now that the repairs are underway; they will work around the clock to install a short metal rod that will prevent millions of pedals from sticking. Parts were delivered to local dealerships Wednesday morning and by Wednesday afternoon, technicians had been trained on how to complete the fix.

"I think it's going to be a pretty rapidly moving campaign as we call them here," assistant parts manager Neil Dobson said.

Questions persist though, with some not sure this fix will solve Toyota's problem. The federal government will begin testing to see if the problem really lies in the recalled vehicles' electrical systems.

It is clear this is far from over and Toyota faces a serious crisis of confidence.

"Toyota has a good reputation, however with this massive recall I'm going to have to question their quality going forward," Gascon said. Gascon says he is too afraid to drive his Toyota and will not until it is fixed.

It could take weeks or months to fix all of the cars in question.