Toyota on the Hot Seat with Latest Safety Issue

DETROIT -- Toyota has told North American dealers to stop selling six popular models with heated seats because the fabric doesn't meet flammability standards.

One soft material beneath the seat covers doesn't comply with U.S. safety standards, company spokesman John Hanson said.

No fires or injuries have been reported, but Toyota (TM) can't legally sell cars that don't comply with U.S. safety codes, Hanson said. The company is still totaling how many vehicles are affected, but it will be in the thousands, according to the spokesman.

The stop-sale order could mean trouble for Toyota and its dealers because it covers the company's top-selling vehicles. Dealers can no longer sell certain Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma models from the 2013 and 2014 model years, as well as Corollas and Tundras from 2014. The Camry, for instance, is the top-selling car in the U.S. with more than 408,000 sales last year.

It depends on how long the repairs will take. Hanson said the company already has a new material that's being installed at factories and will be put in cars that are on dealer lots.

"We don't think it will take long to get the parts and make the changes," Hanson said, without getting more specific.

As for vehicles already on the road, Hanson says Toyota has reported the problem to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
which will decide if the sold vehicles should be recalled. A NHTSA spokesman said he would check into the matter.

"We don't believe that there is a safety issue here because there have been no reports of any problems," Hanson said.

The stop-sale order affects cars and trucks distributed to dealers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In addition, some vehicles were exported outside North America, Hanson said.

The problem was discovered by safety regulators in South Korea, who disassembled seats and tested individual fabrics, Hanson said. U.S. safety standards require fabrics to resist flames at a certain rate, but the one fabric didn't meet the standard, Hanson said.

Toyota spokesman Naoki Sumino in Japan said the affected vehicles were sold since August of 2012, when the fabric supplier was changed.

Toyota has been struggling to regain its once sterling reputation for quality after announcing massive recalls over several years, starting in 2009, for a variety of defects including braking, accelerators and floor mats.

The company was fined for being slow on recalls, which affected more than 14 million vehicles, and faces lawsuits.

Toyota, the top automaker ahead of General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen in global vehicle sales, has promised to be quicker with recalls and more careful with model development to avoid a recurrence of its troubles.

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Toyota screwed up, again. It is not acceptable blame accountants, or anything else. Those are excuses, and poor ones at that.

It would be, to me, unacceptable to allow Toyota to repair unsold vehicles, but not those already in the hands of the customer. While there have been no complaints, the cars are only a year old, at most. Toyota has a chance to do the right thing here, and avoid the possibility of future law suits when the inevitable happens. Let's hope that they do so.

February 01 2014 at 3:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gunsnnovas's comment

There is no way that they would try to fix the unsold cars before they fixed the ones that are being driven by their customers.

February 01 2014 at 4:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is not only Toyota coming up with recalls. We see many other
brands with recalls as well. The more sophisticated these vehicles
get, the better chance of a problem popping up now and then -
some are just an annoyance, others could be lethal. Cars are
changing so fast that it is impossible for the automakers to be
able to performance test every single part of a car.

February 01 2014 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to estimatorone's comment

They only had to test one seat to find the problem. That is all the Koreans tested.

February 01 2014 at 4:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know what fabric they used, but if it's the microfiber stuff they should remove it from any use in a motor vehicle as well as in clothing. It's the most annoying fabric I've ever come in contact with. Is cotton polyester that hard to get now? It's another product on the market that is just simply getting too cheap and I'm not talking about dollar cheap, It's lousy material.

February 01 2014 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How is this company still in Business .. ?

February 01 2014 at 12:33 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Like the sticking throttles ...We so sarry... rust buckets ..I'll keep my Saturn SC with 200k miles and a pefect body, engine and original clutch ..and best part .. It's paid for........

January 31 2014 at 11:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

pretty basic oversight. Is Toyota taking stupid pills?

January 31 2014 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My Avalon hybrid is awesome.

January 31 2014 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
George Gibson

My guess is that this same material is in the seats of other car brands also. Problem is that the car manufacturers have limited or completely eliminated their own testing labs which might detect a sub standard part or material. When the part supplier knows that no one is checking their quality, they too limit their own testing. The accountants who CONTROL most corporations refer to test labs as "indirect costs" and therefore an unnecessary cost. This is a problem throughout industry and it puts consumers at risk.

January 31 2014 at 9:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

They should also recall the Yaris and Prius, which are death traps, according to the crash tests. Of course Toyota doesn't give a ****!

January 31 2014 at 8:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

who is in the HOT seat now?

January 31 2014 at 8:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply