By Mary O’KEEFE
Since Toyota released information on two safety recalls due to jammed floor mats and sticking accelerator pedals there has been a storm of reports touting everything from car sales dropping to the end of the company itself. In the eye of this storm are local dealerships like Bob Smith Toyota & Scion that are preparing for the recall repairs and ensuring loyal customers that this is a bump in the road and not the death rattle of the company.
“People forget that we have a 50-year reputation of building cars. [The recall] is a black eye but like all black eyes it will go away,” said Pete Smith who is the general manager of the Foothill dealership.
Smith added that the recall and the way it has been handled may help Toyota in the future when dealing with problems like this.
“This will make Toyota a better company and in the end we will all benefit,” he said.
In the immediate future however Smith is looking at long lines and many mechanic hours in recall repairs.
“There are about 2.3 million cars [in the United States] that will need these [repairs],” he said.
The parts have been shipped and are expected to arrive next week. The actual repairs are estimated to take about a half an hour once the mechanic begins. Toyota owners will receive a letter stating the problem specifically to their vehicle and inform them to get repairs.
“Before they get that letter we strongly advise Toyota owners to make an appointment with us,” Smith said. “The supply of parts is no where near the demand.”
He added the company is shipping parts as quickly as they can but with the demand of millions of vehicles it will take a while.
On Wednesday Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood advised Toyota owners to stop driving their vehicles until they were repaired, but then immediately withdrew the comments, which added to some confusion on the matter of safety.
LaHood said he had misspoke and what he intended to say to owners of recalled Toyotas was to take the vehicle to the dealer for repairs.
“We want to make sure our customers understand that this situation is rare and generally does not occur suddenly. In rare instances where it does occur, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes,” Toyota released on its website in response to the secretary’s comments.
“Unless owners have symptoms they can continue to drive their cars,” Smith said. “I am driving an affected car.”
At this point Smith is not certain of all the additional measures his dealership will be implementing for its customers.
“We are going to have extended hours to help our customers as quickly as possible,” he added.
In addition to the previously announced recall, Toyota is now dealing with another possible problem with the brake system on its new Prius hybrid car that was announced on Wednesday.
Toyota reported it had received complaints concerning insufficient braking when a Prius drives over bumps or frozen roads. According to Toyota’s website the complaints are being investigated and it is “premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.”
For more information on the recalls visit Bob Smith Toyota & Scion website at www.bobsmithtoyota.com or the Toyota website at www.toyota.com.toyt