Toyota to dealers: Stop selling Camry, other best-sellers; heated seats a problem – Detroit Free Press

Posted: Saturday, February 01, 2014

Toyota told dealers in the U.S. and Canada to stop selling six of its best-selling models — including the nation’s best-selling car, the Camry — after discovering their heated seats don’t meet U.S. flammability standards.

The Japanese automaker didn’t issue a recall and said there had been no injuries or fires, but it did say it had notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the issue. A South Korean agency reportedly discovered the problem during testing.

Toyota ordered dealers to stop selling Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Corolla, Sienna, Tacoma and Tundra models equipped with heated seats. Most of the vehicles are made in the U.S.

The Camry was the best-selling car in the U.S. last year, while the Corolla was the fifth-best.

The automaker said about 36,000 vehicles on dealer lots, or about 13% of current inventory, must get new seat fabric before they can be sold. An undetermined number of vehicles en route from factories to showrooms are also affected.

“All those vehicles will be captured, all of them will be fitted with the new seat-heater assembly so they will then be able to be sold,” Toyota spokesman John Hanson said in an interview. “We’re actually building the new units right now. Basically it’s the seat heater with a different cloth pad that does meet (regulations) for burn rate.”

Hanson said it was too early to say how long it would take for dealers to install the new material.

That means Toyota’s most popular vehicles are not available for purchase for the foreseeable future, which could dent the automaker’s early February sales.

“It affects the most important cars from their lineup, and we’re in the grips of a lot of cold weather right now, so the timing is about as bad as it could be,” said Karl Brauer, a Kelley Blue Book analyst. “You know people who are out buying a Camry right now are more likely than ever to want one with heated seats.”

Hanson said Toyota asked NHTSA to declare the issue “inconsequential as it relates to vehicle safety,” which would make a recall unnecessary. He said the number of vehicles that have been already sold with the noncompliant seats was not immediately available.

According to Kelley Blue Book data, about 26% of 2013 and 2014 Toyota vehicles have heated seats. The issue affects 2014 models of the Corolla and Tundra, and 2013 and 2014 models for the other models.

The NHTSA has the authority to order a recall of models that have already been sold.

“Can you imagine if there’s got to be a recall?” Brauer said. “This is not a sensor or an airbag.”


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