THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

To keep customers, Toyota may extend warranties

A dealer modifies a 2007 Camry’s accelerator pedal. A dealer modifies a 2007 Camry’s accelerator pedal. (Alex Brandon/ Associated Press)
By Tom Krisher
Associated Press / February 16, 2010

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Toyota Motor Corp. may offer incentives or increase the length of its warranties as it tries to recover from an embarrassing string of safety-related recalls.

The company has not decided exactly what it will do after it gets past the recalls, which include more than 8 million vehicles worldwide, for sticky gas pedals, floor mats that can snag the accelerator, and a software glitch in the brakes of its Prius gas-electric hybrid, said group vice president Bob Carter.

Carter told reporters at the National Automobile Dealers Association Convention in Orlando that it is focused on repairing cars and restoring faith in the brand, which has had a reputation for bulletproof reliability for years.

Toyota already is offering zero percent financing for 60 months in some regions, as well as cash to dealers to help sweeten deals, and Carter said the company may do an incentive campaign once it gets through the recalls.

“We’ll be very confident that we will give our dealers a very good competitive program,’’ said Don Esmond, Toyota’s US senior vice president for automotive operations.

Dealers, Carter said, have fixed more than 500,000 of the 2.3 million cars and trucks covered by the gas-pedal recall, and they are repairing about 50,000 cars every day.

He also said the company has only 13 reports of sticking pedals in the United States and Canada out of the 2.3 million cars and trucks involved in the recall. “This is a very, very, very rare occurrence,’’ he said. “Please help us put some perspective on what’s happening. Thirteen is too many, we’ve got to take care of this.’’

About 300 dealers met with Carter and Esmond last week to talk about their business. Several said afterward that customers have the mistaken impression they are not selling cars because of publicity about Toyota’s stopping sales of models in the pedal recall. Toyota suspended sales of some of the eight US-made models covered by the recall until dealers could fix them. But dealers are free to sell the cars once they are repaired.

Carter said Toyota sales so far in February are down, but industrywide sales in the United States are also struggling. Toyota’s market share is holding steady, he said.

Analysts such as Kelley Blue Book have done research showing that Toyota sales will drop this month. The company’s research shows 27 percent of new car shoppers who were considering a Toyota before the recall are no longer considering the brand.