Japanese car manufacturer Toyota has told North American car dealers to discontinue sales of six popular car models with heated seats because the fabric does not comply with U.S. safety codes, and have the potential to catch fire.
The order affects 36,000 trucks, cars, and minivans; which equals to nearly 13% of the inventory currently on dealer lots in the United States. Vehicles being sold in Canada, Mexico, Korea, Israel, and other countries around the globe are also affected however the company did not give exact numbers on their website.
Currently there have been no issues of fires or injuries reported, but Toyota is not legally allowed to sell cars that do not comply with U.S. safety codes. Models affected include Toyota Camery, Avalon, Sienna, and Tacoma models with heated seats that were produced between 2013 and 2014, as well as Corollas and Tundras from 2014. Camry currently ranks as the top-selling mid-size sedan in the United States with more than 408,000 model sales last year alone.
All of the models affected were produced in U.S. factories-some models were exported to South Korea where safety regulators discovered the problem after disassembling the seats and testing individual fabrics. The fire hazard lies in the soft material beneath seat covers that does not adhere to safety codes. Toyota does not yet know how long repairs of this problem will take, however replacement material is currently being manufactured and installed at factories. Dealers will use the material to fix cars that are currently on their lots. Spokesperson for Toyota, John Hanson, said that while he does not have a specific time frame as to how long the repairs will take, he doesn’t expect them to take much time to complete repairs.
For vehicles that are already on the road, Toyota does not believe a recall is necessary since there have been no fires or incidents reported, however it will petition the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ask that the problem be declared “inconsequential” to vehicle safety. The NHTSA is aware of the problem and is monitoring the risk, taking public comments on the proposed petition. If the petition is granted by the NHTSA, there will not be a recall of the impacted vehicles.
The timing of this issue could seemingly not come at a worse time, as much of the United States has been impacted by a record cold snap or “polar vortex” as many have referred to it. Kelley Blue Book analyst, Karl Brauer said that there is a high demand for car models with seat heaters. The company, though a leader in global car sales, is trying to regain its reputation for quality after announcing several massive recalls since 2009 for a variety of defects including braking and accelerating systems, and floor mats.
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