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Toyota dealers resume sales of recalled vehicles

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Toyota dealers resume sales of recalled vehicles

Lindsay Chappell

Automotive News -- February 5, 2010 - 4:29 pm ET

Sales halt or not, if you've got enough repair parts, go right ahead and start selling Toyotas again. That is Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.'s message to its retailers as it tries to get beyond the worst safety recall in its history.

So vehicles are moving off the lot at Toyota Sunnyvale in northern California.

"We're definitely seeing traffic build in the showroom again," Adam Simms, president of Toyota Sunnyvale, told Automotive News today. "We've made the upgrades on the eight models that were recalled. And we had a lot of those pre-sold. We're calling the customers in now to deliver them.

"We're feeling very optimistic about sales volume pretty quickly getting back up to where it was."

The company ordered a "stop-sale" on eight of its biggest selling models last week as it scrambles to repair 2.3 million vehicles recalled over a sticky accelerator pedal.

Existing customers first, then sales

Toyota has told dealers repeatedly that their customer repairs must come first before they can resume selling the recalled models that sit in their showrooms and on their lots.

But there are limits.

Toyota has clarified that not all 2.3 million customers have to receive their repairs before dealers can start selling new vehicles again. According to Toyota Division Group Vice President Bob Carter, if dealers have more of the small metal shims needed to repair customers' vehicles than they have customers waiting for repairs, they are free to begin repairing their unsold inventory and selling them to customers.

That is welcome news to Pat Lobb, owner of the large-volume Toyota of McKinney near Dallas. Lobb repaired 115 customer vehicles within 24 hours of receiving a delivery of 1,000 repair shims. He now has his staff actively calling more customers and asking them to come in, even before they receive an official recall letter from Toyota.

Extra repair parts

But that still leaves him with hundreds of extra repair parts, and an inventory of 600 new and used vehicles sitting on his lot. Of those, 350 can't be sold until they have a shim inserted into their accelerator pedal module.

Carter says there was no magic moment at which the stop-sale was to be lifted on the eight recalled models, which include the Camry, Corolla, RAV4 and Highlander.

He told reporters earlier this week that the recall had cost Toyota 20,000 sales in the final week of January alone.

To speed up the remedy, Toyota has turned to one of its small U.S. stamped metal suppliers, Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., to churn out tens of thousands of the postage-stamp size shims, or reinforcement bars, a day for dealers.

The supplier -- which did not produce the original accelerator pedal -- is running overtime to ship the parts through the Toyota retail system.

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