Toyota extends warranties, pledges repairs on 735,000 cars
July 15, 2010 - 12:01 am ET
DETROIT (Reuters) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will extend
warranties on about 235,500 RAV4 vehicles and address steering complaints on
as many as 500,000 late model Matrix and Corollas in the United States.
Toyota is taking the action to repair vehicles outside the channel for
recalls tracked by U.S. regulators because it does not consider the reported
problems to be safety issues.
Drivers of 2001 to 2003 model year RAV4s equipped with automatic transaxles
may experience a "harsh shift" or have a dashboard light turn on indicating
a malfunction, Toyota said in a notice to U.S. dealers.
Meanwhile, drivers of about a half million U.S. Matrix and Corolla vehicles
from model years 2009 and 2010 may experience steering drift, the company
U.S. Toyota dealers will fix the steering for owners who complain, said
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons. He said the matter was not a safety issue but
one of customer satisfaction.
In February, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had
opened a preliminary investigation into complaints over steering issues on
the Corolla and Matrix.
At the time, NHTSA had received 168 consumer complaints about the steering
issue linked to eight crashes and 11 injuries.
Toyota has said Corollas made in Japan and Europe had different parts for
steering than the affected models sold in North America.
Lyons did not provide an estimate of how much the repairs would cost Toyota.
The automaker estimated that fixing the steering would take about four hours
representing a labor bill of about $350 per fix based on average dealer
RAV4 shifting issues
Meanwhile, owners of RAV4s covered by the extended warranty will be sent a
letter this month advising them to bring their vehicle to a dealer to be
examined if they have experienced a problem with shifting.
Toyota will pay for repairs and extend warranties of the affected RAV4s, the
note sent to dealers said.
The notice of the vehicle repair campaign was sent to Toyota's U.S. dealers
on Monday. A copy of the Toyota "Customer Support Program" was obtained by
Major automakers often extend warranty terms or notify dealers that they
will pay for repairs that they judge to be unrelated to the kinds of safety
issues covered by recalls.
Toyota's RAV4 warranty campaign comes after a series of high-profile recalls
that have damaged the automaker's reputation for quality. About 10.8 million
Toyota and Lexus models have been recalled since last fall worldwide.
Toyota said that the solder in one of the circuits on the RAV4's engine
control module is at risk for peeling over time.
In most cases, dealers would be able to fix any vehicle problems by
replacing the engine control module, Toyota said.
In some cases, dealers will also have to replace the automatic transaxle on
affected RAV4s, Toyota said.
Hundreds of calls
Hundreds of U.S. consumer complaints have been filed with the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration about transmission-related problems
with the RAV4.
In some cases, drivers have complained of repair bills of several thousand
dollars or sluggish acceleration that put them in dangerous situations.
One driver of a 2002 RAV4 told U.S. regulators that in March 2007 he was
involved in a minor accident after the "automatic transmission went crazy
and (the) car started lunging forward and then not going when it should."
"We have not felt safe enough to even keep the car on the road," the
consumer told NHTSA.
No other Toyota, Lexus or Scion models are impacted by the issue, Toyota
said in its notice to dealers.
RAV4 owners who have already paid for repairs can apply to be reimbursed,
Toyota said. New repairs must be made at Toyota dealerships.