Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

January 31, 2014

Toyota tells dealers to stop selling 6 models

DETROIT (AP) — Toyota has told North American dealers to stop selling six popular models with heated seats because the fabric doesn’t comply with U.S. safety codes and potentially could catch fire.

The order affects 36,000 cars, trucks and minivans, about 13 percent of the inventory on dealer lots in the U.S., spokesman John Hanson said. Also affected are additional vehicles in Canada, Mexico, Korea, Israel and other countries, but no total number was available.

No fires or injuries have been reported, but Toyota can’t legally sell cars that don’t comply with U.S. safety codes, spokesman John Hanson said. Dealers can no longer sell certain Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma models with heated seats from the 2013 and 2014 model years, as well as Corollas and Tundras from 2014. The Camry is the top-selling car in the U.S. with more than 408,000 sales last year.

One soft material beneath the seat covers does not comply with U.S. safety standards, Hanson said.

Toyota doesn’t know yet how long the repairs will take. Hanson said a replacement material is being manufactured and already is being installed at factories. Dealers will use the material to fix cars now on their lots. “We don’t think it will take long to get the parts and make the changes,” Hanson said. “I don’t have any numbers on the timing.”

As for vehicles already on the road, Toyota contends a recall isn’t necessary since there have been no fires or incidents, Hanson said. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will decide if a recall is needed.

A NHTSA spokesman said he would check into the matter.

Earl Stewart, owner of a dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla., said he can sell only a few of the 30 Avalon full-size cars on his lot because most have heated leather seats. “Hopefully we’ll get some parts in where we can get them fixed by the end of February,” he said. Other models such as the Camry aren’t as affected because they are more often sold with unheated cloth seats, he said.

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