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Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), which has worked to regain a reputation for vehicle quality after record recalls, is adding a luxury sport-utility vehicle to a 2009 floor-mat repair campaign under U.S. pressure.
Toyota is recalling 154,000 units of its 2010 Lexus RX SUVs to fix and replace mats that can slip out of position and interfere with accelerator pedals, the company said today in a statement.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website that it asked the Toyota City, Japan-based company to add the models. The agency knows of 97 vehicles in which floor-mat interference with the accelerator pedal was reported, spokeswoman Lynda Tran said.
“NHTSA approached Toyota regarding this issue late last month after the agency observed an increase in consumer complaints and other reports regarding pedal entrapment in these vehicles,” the agency said in a statement.
The regulator will decide “in the coming days” whether to open an investigation into the timeliness of this recall, Tran said in an interview.
Toyota, Asia’s largest automaker, has increased quality checks and customer-complaint services after recalling more than 10 million cars and trucks worldwide following reports of unintended acceleration.
The company paid record fines to NHTSA of $48.8 million in 2010 for failing to recall models affected by the flaws in a timely manner. It still faces customer lawsuits related to the defects.
“Toyota would have liked to have gotten this all behind it and has not, so that’s a concern,” said Alan Baum, principal of auto-industry forecaster Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “But frankly I think the attention span of the American consumer is reasonably short, and I think they’ll look at this and think ‘oh, one of those,’ and then move on.”
Toyota’s American despositary receipts rose 2.8 percent to $80.19 at 3:34 p.m. in New York.
The RX wasn’t part of the 2009 recall as it didn’t appear to have a floor-mat flaw, said Brian Lyons, a Toyota spokesman. “In our view, the available data at the time did not include adding that model to the recall,” he said by phone.
The recall is unlikely to affect sales, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst based in Santa Monica, California, for auto-researcher Edmunds.com.
“People are attuned to it because it is Toyota but clearly not to the same level as before,” she said.
Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California.
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