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How Toyota recall affects owners, and what's next for the automaker

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Mike Quincy
Auto Content Specialist for Consumer Reports
Thursday, January 28, 2010; 2:30 PM

How will the Toyota recall affect owners, when will the automaker begin production again and what do car shoppers need to know? Mike Quincy of Consumer Reports takes your questions.

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Mike Quincy: Hi. It's Mike Quincy from Consumer Reports here to answer all your car-related questions...let's get started!

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Silver Spring, MD: Are there any concerns yet that Toyota models from other years may be affected as well? I have a 2006 Camry.

Mike Quincy: the initial recall is for the 2005-2010 Avalon, 2007-2010 Camry, 2009-2010 Corolla, 2010 Highlander, 2009-2010 Matrix, 2009-2010 RAV4, 2008-2010 Sequoia, and 2007-2010 Tundra. In all, 2.3 million vehicles are listed to address potential problems related to sticking accelerator pedals.

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Fairfax Va.: I was hoping to buy a RAV-4 because I wanted the fold- down third row seats but did not want to buy a minivan. Should I wait for Toyota to get its house in order (and then get a RAV 4) or are there other non-minivans that offer a third-row, fold-down seat?

Mom in Fairfax

Mike Quincy: We still think the RAV4 is a good small SUV, but you have to wait to buy one -- Toyota has halted the sales. We think that as soon as the fix is done, the RAV4 will be a good choice.

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Bridgeport, Conn.: My 09 Rav4 is among the vehicle that's been recalled. I would like to change the vehicle for a model that's not being recalled. Is that a good idea?

Mike Quincy: There are several good small SUVs out there -- the Subaru Forester is also an excellent choice as well as the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rouge

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Hershey, PA: Can you describe the fault in the accelerator pedal? (No one has yet done this, except to say that it sticks, which is not helpful.)

Mike Quincy: According to a release from the supplier, CTS said, "The products we supply to Toyota, including the pedals covered by the recent recall, have been manufactured to Toyota's design specifications." That's all we know right now.

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DC: What's the best advice for those that own a Toyota impacted by the recall?

Mike Quincy: You have to keep in mind that the chances of most Toyota owners experiencing "unintended acceleration" are very slight. And EVERY manufacturer has recalls. In general, keep driving the car and pay attention to whether or not the gas pedal is slow to return to the "up" position. You'll get a feel if the pedal becomes sticky. But if you have a problem with the engine racing, simply shift into neutral, steer to the side of the road and shut the car off.

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Alex., VA: Regarding a stuck accelerator... if that were to happen to me, the right move would be to put the car in Neutral, and apply the brakes and steer to the side of the road and then turn off the ignition.

In the famous case in Calif. where an off-duty CHP and his family were killed by a stuck accelerator, wouldn't that procedure have worked?

Or am I missing something? I've shifted to neutral in a moving vehicle, but never while revving the accelerator. Is this issue more than just carpet position?

Mike Quincy: Yes, the people in California probably would have lived if the driver put the car into neutral. Another piece of advice: don't pump the brakes -- you lose compression. And don't turn off the engine when the car is in "Drive" -- you'll lose your power steering.

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Durham, NC: I'm thinking about buying a Toyota Tacoma not involved in the recall. Should I hold off to play it safe?

Lee

Mike Quincy: Right now, the Tacoma is not part of the recall...and the Toyota dealer would likely be VERY happy to see you. Perhaps you could get a good deal.

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Atkins, Iowa: I have a '08 Tundra and am afraid to drive it. What are the odds that Toyota will "buy back" this potentially fatal vehicle from me and cancel my loan if I complain??

Mike Quincy: Right now there are no plans to "buy back" cars. The recall and fix should cure any problem. But, still, these examples of unintended acceleration are very rare, so I wouldn't panic.

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Fairfax VA: Has Toyota given any indication of how long it thinks it will suspend sales of the troubled car models?

Mike Quincy: We don't know exactly, but we think it might be until later in February. Toyota wants to fix this ASAP -- it's losing tons of money every day.

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Washington, DC: My parents, 82 and 79 years old, drive a new leased 2010 Avalon. Should I urge them to try to get the car exchanged under the lease? Is there another Toyota that the dealer can/should lease them? Thanks.

Mike Quincy: You'd have to read the fine print on the lease. I don't think recalls are just cause for getting out of a lease. Have a Toyota mechanic look at the car; he/she could probably give your parents an idea of how the car is doing.

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Ruckersville, Va: Our 2010 Corolla has a gas pedal that seems sticky. We've heard nothing as owners regarding a recall--only via the media. When and how can it be fixed?

Mike Quincy: Regarding when things will be fixed, Toyota says "We're making every effort to remedy this situation for our customers as quickly as possible." You will get a notice in the mail, but you have to realize that there are millions of cars involved and this will probably take some time.

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Washington, DC: I would like (in an empty parking lot, not on a busy street!) to practice shifting the car into Neutral while it is moving, so that if I ever HAVE to do it I will be somewhat experienced in doing it.

Will doing this hurt the car?

(Obviously with a stuck accelerator I don't care if it hurts the car, but will practicing hurt the car?)

Mike Quincy: This is a great practice! Especially for parents with young drivers, go to a place where you can get into the habit of putting your car into neutral quickly.

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Rockville, MD: I have a friend who owns a Camry which is one year older then the recall covers. His wife got in a serious accident because the car started accelerating and she could not stop the car. What should they do?

Mike Quincy: They should probably take the car to the dealer to get it inspected. But I'm not a lawyer and can't give legal advice. Plus, it's impossible for me (or you) to know exactly what happened. Was it the gas pedal? Or floormat? Or was it driver error -- people have been known to hit the wrong pedal. Tough to tell from this angle.

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Vibe Owner: Mr. Quincy,

Do owners of the Pontiac Vibe, which is essentially a Matrix, need to be concerned? Ours is a 2004. Thanks!

Mike Quincy: Only the 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe is covered in the recall.

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Alex., Va.: The reason that I noted the off duty CHP - was - shouldn't he know how to slow down a car with a stuck accelerator? Hard to believe that a police officer, trained in driving, choked under pressure on how to stop a car....

Which makes me ask the question - is this more than the jammed rug/floor mat as Toyota initially stated?

Mike Quincy: Hard to tell because we weren't there. But, in any case, putting the car in neutral would have given them a better chance to survive.

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Anonymous: In an earlier response, you said, "Don't pump the brakes - you'll lose compression." Do you mean engine compression? That doesn't make sense to me. Could you explain further?

Mike Quincy: You lose brake presure.

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Falls Church, VA: Do you think the Prius will be added to the recall?

Mike Quincy: So far, the Prius is not part of the recall.

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Turn it off?: I read that you should NOT turn the car off if you experience unintended acceleration:

"The engine may keep revving loudly while you try to stop, but don't turn it off if you can avoid it. Turning off the engine means you lose power-assisted steering and brakes, and if you turn the key too far, you could lock the steering wheel. "

What a driver should do if the accelerator sticks

Mike Quincy: Correct: Do NOT turn the car off -- put it in neutral and steer to safety.

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Rockville, MD: I have two questions. First, the articles all say that select models of the Camry, including the hybrids, are NOT affected by the recall. How do we find out what those other models are? Also, I lease my car and have 2 years left. Is there anything in a lease agreement that covers a situation such as this and would allow you to turn the car in early without having to pay off the remainder of the lease?

Mike Quincy: Not all Camrys are in the recall. Dealers will likely have VINs or build dates of models that are covered. Not sure about the lease -- you'd have to look at the fine print. But keep in mind that the recall, once the fix is made, will likely make the car perfectly fine to drive.

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Floor mat or pedal?: So is it a floor mat problem? Or an accelerator problem?

Mike Quincy: There have been recalls for both. Las fall, Toyota announced that it is asking 3.8 million owners of seven Lexus and Toyota models to remove factory driver-side floor mats to prevent potential throttle "entrapment" that can equate to uncontrolled acceleration.

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Orlando FL: I have a Corolla XRS 2009, with 8,000 miles. Is it one of the recalls, and what should I do??

Mike Quincy: Continue to drive the car and monitor how the gas pedal feels. If the pedal seems slow to return to its default position, it might be the start of the pedal sticking a bit. This is a GRADUAL process, though. It is highly unlikely your car will suddenly seems possessed.

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Fairfax, Va.: I don't fully understand what the problem is with the pedals. Is it a mechanical linkage issue, or is it a computer drive-by-wire issue? Doesn't it make more sense to have uncomplex, simple mechanical systems for critical controls such as accelerator, brakes and steering rather than electronic controls and solenoids that fail rather unpredictably?

Mike Quincy: We're not sure yet whether this is a software or hardware issue. Stay tuned...we'll likely find out soon.

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Alexandria, VA: Can an owner do a visual inspection of the gas pedal and tell if it might be susceptible to the problem? Are there any visible signs of wear that one can detect easily?

Mike Quincy: I think this is something a Toyota mechanic can tell. I'm sure all the Toyota service people will get used to looking for this VERY quickly.

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Fairfax, Va.: Are hybrids included?

Mike Quincy: Toyota says no Lexus Division or Scion vehicles are affected by these actions. Also not affected are Toyota Prius, Tacoma, Sienna, Venza, Solara, Yaris, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, Highlander hybrids and select Camry models, including all Camry hybrids, which will remain for sale.

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Reston, VA: During the initial "recall", Toyota included Lexus models in the list of cars that could potentially exhibit the stuck accelerator problem. Back then they attributed all of their accelerator issues to a problem with the driver's side floor mat.

Why wasn't Lexus included in this latest announcement?

Mike Quincy: Toyota doesn't say why Lexus models weren't included.

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Pensacola, Fla.: What model years are being recalled? I have a 2006 Corolla.

Mike Quincy: Accoording to Toyota, these are the models in the recall:

2009-2010 RAV4,

2009-2010 Corolla,

2009-2010 Matrix,

2005-2010 Avalon,

Certain 2007-2010 Camry

2010 Highlander except hybrid models,

2007-2010 Tundra,

2008-2010 Sequoia

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Briarcliff Manor, NY: We had narrowed down our new car purchase - due to the arrival of a 4th child in April - to the 2010 Sequoia, 2010 Highlander Hybrid and the 2011 Sienna. We do not need to purchase for a couple of months, but will Toyota have recovered by then to be a reliable purchase or should we start considering other options (must be an AWD that can seat 6 comfortably and allow passthrough between 3rd and 2nd rows due to latched in baby seats).

Mike Quincy: We think Toyota will "recover" from this. Consumer Reports data still shows that most Toyotas are reliable. The Highlander Hybrid is not in the recall and is one of the best 3-row SUVs.

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Reston, Va.: What do you do if you have a recalled vehicle which is under lease from Toyota Leasing? If you do not feel comfortable about driving this car (Corolla 2009) is there any recourse in getting out of the remaining months of the lease without any penalties?

Mike Quincy: Not sure about all the lease legalize -- you'd have to look at your contract. Keep in mind that this is not a catastrophe. There are very small numbers of cars that experience unintended acceleration.

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Moorestown NJ: I have a 2009 Camry Hybrid, which is not incl. in the recall. But, the VIN does NOT begin with JT. So is it included or not? And, if it is, should I seek lemon law remedy or inclusion in the class action suit?

Thanks.

Mike Quincy: Best thing to do is bring your car to the dealer so they can look up your VIN.

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European Toyotas?: I have a friend in Portugal's Azores Islands who is such of fan of Toyotas that his family owns TWO of them! Auto fuel is extremely expensive there, so he owns smaller models. Should I forward this chat to him, or the ones he owns not affected by the recall?

Mike Quincy: Consumer Reports just published a blog on this, and noted that Toyota has just added two million more vehicles in China and Europe to the latter recall.

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2010/01/toyota-expands-accelerator-recall-overseas-.html

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washingtonpost.com: Did stuck accelerator cause crash that killed CHP officer, family? (Fox 5 San Diego)

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Silver Spring: The weirdest thing about the CHP driver accident is that they had time to call 911 apparently, but panicked too much to either slam on the brakes as soon as the car demonstrated the symptom or put the car in neutral.

Mike Quincy: I think it's not ususual to lose sense of what you should do when you're feeling panicky. That's why it's a good idea to practice putting your car in neutral so you get used to doing it quickly.

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White Plains NY: Mike, why isn't the Lexus RX, which is built in Canada part of this, as a matter of fact, why are none of the Lexus cars part of this when so many Toyota's are?

Lexus only has the carpet recall, but not the sticking accelerator, I would think all cars made by Toyota/Lexus in North America have the same accelerator pedal

Mike Quincy: Not all Lexus models are built in the same factories -- and use the same suppliers -- as Toyotas. For now, we have to wait and see IF Toyota includes any Lexus models. Currently, there are none.

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Ellicott City, MD: Will the recall affect the re-sale value after the "fix" is made? (I have a RAV-4)

Mike Quincy: If you have the recall fix performed, there are no reasons for the car to go down in value. But perception is a strong thing, and it's hard to tell what the long-term affect this recall will have on the values of Toyotas.

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Alexandria, VA: Will Consumer Reports downgrade the reliability of the recalled cars and stop recommending them?

Mike Quincy: When the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducts its survey, we ask subscribers to note any problems with their cars that occurred in the past 12 months. They are asked to identify problems that they considered serious (because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime). We ask them to include problems covered by warranty, but not the ones resulting from accident damage or recall.

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Boston: How desperate will Toyota dealers be to sell me a new RAV4 when this is over, say, in April? Would asking for a $2000 discount be feasible?

Mike Quincy: I think Toyota dealers will be very happy to get customers on the floor as soon as possible...

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Raleigh, NC: How does the recall affect resale value? Our family wants to buy a minivan and we were wanting to use our 2006 Camry (not part of the recall) as part of a trade in. But I'm worried this will depress prices for ALL Toyota autos, not just the recalled ones.

Mike Quincy: Keep in mind that Consumer Reports reliability data shows that Toyotas score very high. Recalls, in general, are not a bad thing. The problem is paid for by the company, it's usually fixed right the first time, and the vehicles don't suffer long-term drivability. And EVERY car company has them. That doesn't give Toyota a free pass with all that's happened lately, but all of this recall news needs to be kept in perspective.

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Reston VA: I have a 2008 Camry - they say "some" models. Do you have any more detail on how to tell whether my Camry is part of the recall or not?

Mike Quincy: Bring your car to the dealer and have them check your car's VIN and build date.

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Arlington, VA: My car (2007 Yaris) is not on your recall list. Do I still need to be concerned about floor mat issues?

Mike Quincy: I would not be concerned if your car is not on the list. But keep an eye on the floormats -- especially if they are from an aftermarket company. Any floormat can come dislodged and wedge itself under the pedals.

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Cameron, NC: The reports keep referring to a stuck pedal, don't they mean pedal mechanism? Does the throttle stick after being pressed to the floor or is it drawn into the fully open position while driving without any further assistance? What about Lexus being recalled?

Mike Quincy: There isn't enough data to show exactly what happens every time. Toyota says "when the pedal mechanism becomes worn and, in certain conditions, the accelerator pedal may become harder to depress, slower to return or, in the worst case, stuck in a partially depressed position." Bottom line: get a feel for how the pedal returns to it's normal position.

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Raleigh, NC: I have a 2008 Highlander. I saw the 08 Highlanders were added to the recall list, but it's not clear why. Does the 08 Highlander have the same problem with the accelerator? Or is it something different? Thanks!

Mike Quincy: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, amending Toyota's Defect Information Report of October 5, 2009, points out the potential risk for floor mat entrapment of accelerator pedals for these models:

2009-2010 Corolla

2008-2010 Highlander

2009-2010 Matrix

2009-2010 Venza

2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe

This recall expands on the fall recall of 3.8 million cars to modify gas pedals, carpets, and software and supplements the recent sticking accelerator recall.

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Kansas City: I had a 91 Ford E250. The throttle stuck on it one time. It was an automatic but I was able to put it in neutral and coast to the side of the road and turn it off. When I restarted it, the engine still ran at a high RPM. I was able to spray some WD 40 on the linkage and it loosened up. Is the problem with the Toyota's a linkage problem or is it in the computer system?

Mike Quincy: You did great, but I would not advise anyone with a stuck pedal to NOT drive it again without the car being checked out by a mechanic. Your truck, a 1991 model, doesn't have the computer controls found in modern cars. But it's hard to tell whether or not this recall is more about software or hardware.

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White Plains NY: Mike, not in your list, but reported today by the AP, several other Toytotas and a Pontiac has been added to the list:

2009-2010 Venza 2008-2010 Highlander (was 2010 in your list) 2009-2010 Pontiac Vibe (same mechanicals as matrix)

Just wanted to make sure you knew, and other readers know of the expanding list, here is the link: Toyota extends recall to China, Europe

Mike Quincy: Got it. Consumer Reports also published the latest list on our blog:

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2010/01/toyota-recalls-another-million-vehicles-floor-mats.html

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Mike Quincy: Well, folks, it's 3:30 and time for me to sign off. Thanks for all your great questions. Take a look at our Autos blog for all the latest on Toyota as well as other hot topics in the world of cars.

http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/

C-YA!

Mike Quincy

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