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Alaska's dealerships prepare for fix after huge Toyota recall

Posted: Monday, February 15, 2010

In the wake of a string of recent Toyota vehicle recalls, Alaska-based dealerships have their work cut out for them in replacing faulty accelerator pads and incompatible floor mats.

In some models, incompatible floor mats can cause accelerator pedals to become stuck in the "wide open" position. In others, faulty accelerator pedals can become stuck in a partially depressed position or slowly return to the default position.

Altogether, 10,382 of the recalled automobiles, including the popular Camry and Corolla models, are registered with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, according to statistics provided by Motznik Information Services.

DMV representatives said they could not provide the information without a public records request on file and a potential 30-day waiting period.

Dave Blewett, president of Kendall Auto Group, said his company's two Alaska dealerships, including one in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks, will remain open a few hours longer each day, and will open on weekend days when normally they would be closed.

Though Kendall's two dealerships are withholding 46 percent of their automobile stock to prevent more of the recalled cars from being sold with the faulty parts, they are still seeing steady sales on the remainder of their vehicles, Blewett said.

"When you're in the new car business, recalls are a fact of life," Blewett said, referencing a 2000 incident in which 14.4 million Firestone-brand tires were recalled due to a higher-than-acceptable rate of tread separation.

Toyota's recent recall, in which hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been fixed nationally, is hardly the first vehicle to grab headlines in recent history.

Honda Motor Co. is adding more than 378,000 cars to an existing safety recall for air bag inflation problems, the company said Feb. 9.

Honda will replace the driver's side air bag inflator on the cars because they can deploy with too much pressure, causing the inflator to rupture and injure or kill the driver.

That recall now affects more than 822,000 vehicles, including certain 2001 and 2002 Accord sedans, Civic compacts, Odyssey minivans, CR-V small sport utility vehicles and some 2002 Acura TL sedans.

As early as 1971, General Motors recalled 6.7 million vehicles due to engine mounts that separated from the vehicle and impacted the throttle, according to a Reuters timeline of past car recalls.

In 1996, Ford recalled more than 8 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches that were said to cause electrical shorts and engine fires, according to the same report.

"It's really a situation where we have to get behind the manufacturer and work with them to get these vehicles corrected," Blewett said.

Blewett said it'll take about three weeks to finish the repairs. He said Toyota has shipped the parts and provided the money his dealerships need to enable their technicians to finish the job.

"Toyota stepped up big time to take care of customers," Blewett said.

Within the next 10 days, the company will deploy a mobile service unit to outlying communities so customers who don't have easy access to a dealership can still have their vehicles repaired.

Sean Manget can be reached at sean.manget.@alaskajournal.com.



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