TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Aug. 6, 2010) — Toyota Motor Corp. has completed recalls of 80 percent of the vehicles affected by the “sticky pedal” safety problem that stung the auto maker this year, Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer in the U.S., said Aug. 5 at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
Toyota is now attempting to encourage owners to bring in the remaining 20 percent of affected vehicles. But Mr. St. Angelo, who is also a senior North American manufacturing executive, said that the percentage of recalled vehicles that have been serviced is already higher than recalls normally achieve.
Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles in the U.S. over safety concerns arising from accelerator pedals that could have a tendency to stick in a depressed state.
All told, Toyota has recalled 11.2 million vehicles globally—including 9.2 million in the U.S.—for sticky pedals and other defects since last fall.
Mr. St. Angelo said there were positive results of the massive recall, despite the public drubbing Toyota has taken this year among consumers.
The auto maker in April agreed to pay a record $16.4 million U.S. fine over delayed defect notifications related to the sticky pedal problems.
Mr. St. Angelo said Toyota factory workers around North America have stepped up their suggestions for quality improvements. Engineers are spending more time talking to owners in the field, and more consumer suggestions are being incorporated into new-vehicle development programs.
“Recall is not a four-letter word,” Mr. St. Angelo said in remarks to an industry audience.
He said Toyota engineers so far have investigated 4,000 vehicles at U.S. dealerships to probe a recurring allegation that the incidents of sudden acceleration may instead be the result of a malfunctioning electric throttle system. Toyota has denied the allegation.
“I'm 100 percent confident that there is nothing wrong with our electric throttle system,” he said.
He also said that as car dealership technicians were making the recall repairs for sticky pedals they were finding no evidence of any pedals sticking.
“We can't find a problem,” Mr. St. Angelo told reporters after his presentation.
He said the close scrutiny over Toyota's electric throttle system by engineers would probably end up nonetheless spurring Toyota to make improvements in the system for future vehicles.
This report appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.