Toyota on hot seat, shuts down production

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Toyota sold more cars than any other carmaker worldwide in 2013. But the Japanese manufacturer’s vehicles also had the most problems in 2013. For 2014, it’s worse.

Because of a potential fire hazard in seats via seat heaters, Toyota has stopped sales of nearly all of its new cars and trucks.

Included in the stoppage: Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Corolla, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra vehicles equipped with seat heaters.

The 2014 Toyota Camry has a clean side profile.
The 2014 Toyota Camry is among the carmaker’s vehicle with potential faulty seat heats.                                       Image © James Raia/2014

According to Toyota, in some the carmaker’s best-selling cars a portion of the seats were not manufactured with materials that met flame-retardant standards.

Toyota said that a small portion of the seat assembly failed to meet a provision of U.S. motor vehicle safety standards requiring materials to retard flame at specified rate.

“Toyota is preparing a modification for this condition, which will be implemented on all covered vehicles in dealer inventory. There have been no reports globally of any related incidents in the field with units in operation,” the automaker said in a statement.

Though Toyota is halting sales of the cars to make a fix that will bring them into compliance, at this time, it doesn’t plan to recall cars already sold, said John Hanson, a company spokesman. Toyota can’t sell the cars in the sales pipeline until they are retrofitted.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will review the problem and then decide whether Toyota should issue a recall. “We have filed the report, it is up to them to decide where they want to take it,” Hanson said.

Toyota said it learned of the problem from South Korean safety regulators who had tested a seat on a U.S. built Camry hybrid.  All of the affected vehicles are built in the U.S.

Toyota didn’t say what percentage of the vehicles come equipped with seat heaters, but the action includes some of its biggest sellers.

The automaker sold more than 408,000 Camrys last year, making it the bestselling passenger car in the U.S. With sales of more than 300,000, the Corolla also was a popular model.

Toyota also halted sales of a large segment of its lineup for a week because of a safety issue in 2010. The company briefly stopped sales of eight models — including the Camry and Corolla — saying the gas pedals could get stuck and cause runaway acceleration.

Toyota representatives didn’t say when it plans to resume production.

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