Toyota is poised to recall six model units in North America over concerns the fabrics in those models' heated seats doesn't comply with safe flammability standards.
The models in question include the Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma models with heated seats from the 2013 and 2014 model years, as well as Corollas and Tundras from 2014.
It was the Korean Automotive Test and Research Institute, South Korea's safety agency, which found that the fabric backing material used in the seat heaters did not comply with U.S. vehicle flammability standards.
A worker sets up a display near the Toyota
booth in preparation for the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show
(CES) at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Although fortunately no fires or injuries have so far been reported from units already sold, John Hanson, Toyota spokesman, said the company cannot legally sell the cars.
Toyota has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the cars. It had also issued a "stop-sale" order to its various dealers.
"The timing of this issue, and its impact on Toyota's most popular models, couldn't be much worse," Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, told Reuters. "Given that much of the U.S. 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.
Mr Hanson cannot specify how long the repairs could take. "We don't think it will take long to get the parts and make the changes," he said. "I don't have any numbers on the timing."
He said the material that will be used as replacement is now being manufactured and is at the same time being installed at factories.
According to research firm Kelley Blue Book, the number of affected vehicles in the U.S. alone could reach 111,000 units.
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