Area Toyota dealerships busy fixing faulty pedals

February 3, 2010 9:09:50 PM PST
Local Toyota dealers are starting to get busy as replacement parts finally arrive for defective gas pedals in millions of vehicles. And now there's growing concern about another model that was not part of Toyota's recent recall.

The new possible safety issue are the brakes on the popular Prius Hybrid. There is no recall so far, but investigators are looking into complaints the brakes on the Prius are slow to respond.

In the Chicago area, Toyota owners are rushing to dealerships for the gas pedal fix that officials say takes about a half hour to install.

Wednesday night at the Toyota dealership in Hodgkins, repairs were being made late into the evening. The part to fix the problem is as small as a nickel but its impact is huge. It's a steel reinforcement that is supposed to prevent the gas pedal from sticking.

Bronco Dudich and his daughter both own 2010 Toyota Camrys. "This does worry everybody a little bit but if it gets taken care of, it's going to be fine," said Bronco.

The service department has been busy ever since the part arrived. Roy McAlister, the service manager, is confident the problem can be solved.

"Customers are glad that the repairs are finally out. There were a lot of concerns initially and I really think the way Toyota jumped out in front of this, stop sales, stop production," said McAlister.

"We want to go ahead and take care of it for every customer that feels it's necessary and also, if they have a concern about it," said Cheryl Nelson, dealer principal.

Toyota sales have dropped by 16 percent in January and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's words at a congressional hearing Wednesday did not help the struggling car company.

"My advice is if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it, take it to the Toyota dealer because they believe they have the fix for it," said LaHood.

Secretary LaHood later corrected himself.

"What I meant to say or what I thought I said was that if you own one of these cars or if you're in doubt, take it to the dealer," said LaHood.

The confusion came as Toyota deals with yet another problem with its popular Prius hybrid. An investigation is now underway into brake problems on the Prius. There have been more than 100 complaints in the U.S. and Japan. Back in Hodgkins, at least one customer was satisfied with Toyota's quick action. "I didn't feel that insecure about it before. But now that I know if there was an issue with it, it's taken care of, I feel much better now," said Danielle Porzel.

Toyota has lost $30 billion in market share since the recall began in January. Nelson says Toyota is developing some kind of compensation package for the sales team and dealerships to recoup some of the money lost in the public relations fiasco.