Toyota Canada said Monday it will install a steel reinforcement bar to fix sticky gas pedals that led to the recall of about 270,000 vehicles in Canada and 4.2 million vehicles worldwide last month.
The announcement came the same day as disgruntled Toyota owners launched multiple class-action lawsuits against the embattled auto manufacturer.
The Canadian division of Toyota Motor Corp. said it will begin fixing accelerator pedals in eight recalled models by the end of this week, but it is unclear how long customers will have to wait before the problem is addressed.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. also announced Monday that parts to the gas pedals are being shipped to dealerships and dealer training is underway to implement the fix. Repairs will have to wait until training is completed, the company said.
Toyota says the problem stemmed from the friction-controlling mechanism inside the accelerator pedal.
(Larger image) Toyota's plan to modify its pedal. (Toyota Canada)
Over time, the mechanism could become worn, and when combined with condensation, could "begin to produce a sticking condition," the company said.
The remedy shipped to Toyota factories consists of a stainless steel reinforcement bar that adjusts the friction mechanism.
"People can have high confidence that the solution eliminates any possibility of sticking accelerator pedals," said Stephen Beatty, managing director of Toyota's Canadian operations.
Toyota, the world's top automaker, was forced in January to halt sales of eight recalled models in North America, including the bestselling Camry, until it fixes the issue.
The company had announced it was sending new gas-pedal systems to car factories instead of dealerships, angering car dealers who wanted to get the fix first because they deal directly with customer concerns.
"The solution is at hand and is being rolled out to dealerships and we will begin repairing vehicles this week," Beatty said Monday.
Production at two Toyota manufacturing facilities in southwestern Ontario will be halted this week because of the recall.
The head of Toyota's U.S. operations issued an apology to the automaker's customers Monday.
"I know that we have let you down," Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA said in a video address.
The company also took out full-page newspaper ads declaring the episode a pause "to put you first" and sent Lentz to morning U.S. news shows to express confidence in the fix.
Saskatchewan-based firm Merchant Law Group LLP filed lawsuits in at least four Canadian provinces on behalf of Toyota owners demanding damages for the company's role in the massive recall.
"Toyota has misled and harmed the plaintiff and thousands of unsuspecting consumers throughout Canada," a statement on behalf of Kendra Cole of Regina reads.
Similar suits have been launched on behalf of lead plaintiffs Michelle O'Doherty of Abbotsford, B.C., Claire Valliere of Lavigne, Ont., and Jason Green of Hanwell, N.B.
The lawsuits allege that Toyota tried to play down the scope of the problem and violated Canada's Competition Act by using misleading marketing and promotion for their vehicles.
Toronto-based Rochon Genova LLP filed a suit as well with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
"Having only purchased a brand new vehicle a few weeks ago, I simply cannot believe that Toyota would have sold me this vehicle," said the proposed representative plaintiff in the Rochon suit, Steven Hamilton. "I can't even resell my car now. I am seeking a full refund."
None of the allegations in the suits have been tested in court, and all must be approved by a judge before they can proceed to any sort of trial. An amount being sought was not specified in any of the claims.