Toyota Motor Corp. has instructed North American automobile dealers to cease selling six popular models that come equipped with heated seats because the fabric is not in compliance with U.S. safety codes and could potentially result in fire. Toyota spokesman John Hanson says the order affects 36,000 cars, trucks, and minivans, which is approximately thirteen percent of the inventory on dealer lots located in the U.S. Additional vehicles in Mexico, Canada, Israel, Korea, and other countries will be affected; however, the total number of affected vehicles in these countries has not yet been determined.
Hanson stated that no fires or injuries have been reported to Toyota, but Toyota is forbidden from selling vehicles that do not comply with U.S. safety codes. Dealers must refrain from selling the following 2013 and 2014 model year vehicles that come equipped with heated seats: Avalon, Tacoma, Sienna, and Camry, which is the top-selling automobile in the U.S., with more than 408,000 sold last year. Additionally, dealers cannot sell 2014 model year Corollas and Tundras that have the heated seats. All of the affected vehicles were manufactured in U.S. factories. Some of the vehicles were transported to South Korea, which is where the individual fabrics that make up the heated seat were tested and the problem was discovered. U.S. safety codes require fabrics resist fire at a certain rate; one of the fabrics located beneath the seat covers did not meet that standard. It is unclear how long repairs will take, but replacement material is being produced and installed at Toyota factories. Car dealers will be able to use the replacement material to repair the cars already located on their lots.
Toyota asserts that a recall is not necessary for vehicles with the heated seats that are already on the road because there have been no reports of fires or injuries. The company is in talks with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about declaring the problem “inconsequential” to vehicle safety. The NHTSA is currently monitoring the risk posed by the heated seats and will receive public comment on Toyota’s petition. If the NHTSA grants the petition, there will be no recall of vehicles already on the road. The owner of a North Palm Beach dealership that sells Avalon full-size cars states that he can only sell a few of the thirty Avalon cars he has because the majority already have the heated leather seats. Other models, like the Camry for instance, are not as affected by this issue because they are typically sold with unheated cloth seats. The issue has seemingly arisen at the worst possible time, considering that most of the country has been dealing with record-setting low temperatures.
Toyota tells dealers to stop selling 6 models www.palmbeachpost.com January 30, 2013
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