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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Toyota pedal fixes begin

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Technician Neal Kaneshiro was repairing a potentially sticky accelerator pedal on a Hawaii Toyota yesterday as service centers began fixing models affected by a nationwide recall.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Toyota urges customers to call their nearest Toyota service center or the following numbers:

• On O'ahu: 839-CARE (2273)

• Toll-free from Neighbor Islands: 888-272-5515

Find further details at www.Toyota-Hawaii.com

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Lillian Malzman, 89, of Foster Village, dropped her 2010 silver Toyota Camry off at Servco Auto Honolulu in Mäpunapuna yesterday and settled into a waiting-room seat in front of the large-screen TV.

"It's a minor inconvenience," said Malzman, who was among the first owners in Hawai'i to respond to a nationwide recall announcement and bring her Toyota in to have the gas pedal fixed. Malzman said she had never had any trouble with the gas pedal, but decided to err on the side of caution.

Yesterday marked the start of a massive repair campaign by dealers nationwide and in Hawai'i, aimed at reaching the owners of more than 2 million cars — about 8,000 of them in the Aloha State.

Dealerships statewide are extending their hours in order to make the repairs as quickly as possible.

Toyota recalled 2.3 million cars in eight models, including the top-selling Camry, on Jan. 21 and stopped selling the vehicles five days later because the gas pedals can get stuck in a depressed position.

But it took until the past week for Toyota to mail parts to dealers and train technicians, making this the first weekend many Toyota owners could seek repairs.

At the same time, dealers are repairing 5 million Toyotas from an earlier recall because their floor mats could jam the pedals, causing unintended acceleration.

And the possibility of another recall looms — this time to fix the brakes on the company's celebrated Prius hybrid.

A decision on that could be announced as early as tomorrow.

In Hawai'i there have been no confirmed accidents involving sticking gas pedals, Mark Fukunaga, chairman and CEO of Servco Pacific, said yesterday. But he urged Toyota owners of affected models to come in.

"This is a safety recall," he said.

Fukunaga was on hand for a demonstration of the pedal repair process at the Servco Technical Training Center.

"The absolute main priority for us is to get these cars fixed — safety is our most important concern," said Fukunaga at the beginning of the demonstration. "As part of that effort, we're going to extend hours at Toyota service locations throughout the state."

In addition, Servco Auto Honolulu will repair gas pedals on a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule beginning tomorrow, he said. About 100 specially trained technicians will be working extra shifts to get the repairs done.

The key to having the repair session happen smoothly is making an appointment ahead of time with the dealer, said Fukunaga.

"Don't just come in cold," he said.

The repair demonstration at Servco was done by Steve Ho, a master diagnostic technician. To combat excess friction that can cause the gas pedal to stick, Ho explained, Toyota engineers have designed a precision-cut steel reinforcement bar. Inserting the bar took Ho less than three minutes.

However, removing the accelerator pedal assembly, inserting the bar, performing mechanical and diagnostic tests, reinstalling the pedal assembly and completing the necessary paperwork can take up to an hour or more.

Fukunaga apologized to Toyota owners for the inconvenience.

About five customers, including Malzman, were waiting for their cars early yesterday afternoon. A line of vehicles sat outside awaiting the gas pedal fix.

The dealership expected to perform 100 or more such repairs before the day was through.

Three hours after she arrived at the dealership, Malzman was back in Foster Village. The gas pedal had behaved no differently on the way home than on the drive in, she said. But she felt safer now that she knew it had been fixed.

"And they gave me a free oil change for the next time that needs to be done," she said. "And they washed the car, too. My only complaint was that it was too cold where I was waiting."

Next time she buys a car, Malzman said, she knows exactly where she'll go.

"I'm a Toyota loyalist," she said. "Nothing's changed."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com or 690-8909.

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