The US safety officials, the NHTSA, were cautioned by Toyota that in several vehicles, including its best-selling Camry sedan, the seat material failed to uphold fire retardation standards and the issue could result in a company recall.
Following an alert about fire risk issued by South Korean safety officials, Toyota announced it stopped the sale of eight vehicles equipped with seat heaters in North America. The company added that however, it did not believe a recall was actually necessary.
The Japanese automaker also said no reports of fires or injuries related to the problem have been filed until now and that the current safety standard requires a certain burn rate as the flame moves across the seat heater’s cloth pad.
According to research firm Kelley Blue Book, in the US the affected vehicles number could top 111,000, while Toyota declared the number at its US dealers was around 36,000, or some 13 % of dealer inventory, but that does not include vehicles in transit to dealers or those already sold to consumers.
“The timing of this issue, and its impact on Toyota’s most popular models, couldn’t be much worse,” Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said. “Given that much of the US is currently in the grips of a record cold snap, there’s sure to be high demand for models with seat heaters. Toyota officials appear confident there is no risk and as a result they feel any hit to the company’s reputation would be short-lived and less costly than a full recall,” he added.
We do remember that Toyota recalled nearly 19 million vehicles globally related to unintended acceleration claims from late 2009 to early 2011 and in 2010 its president, Akio Toyoda, even issued a public apology for the bad way in which they treated the customers and the recall and emphasized he would from then on insist on customer safety first.