Toyota tells U.S agency seat issue could lead to recall

DETROIT — Toyota has alerted U.S. safety officials that seat material in several vehicles, including its top-selling Camry sedan, fails to meet fire retardation standards and could result in a recall.

Toyota has stopped selling eight recent-model vehicles equipped with seat heaters in North America following an advisory about fire risk from South Korean safety officials. The world’s largest automaker said it did not believe a recall was necessary, however.

South Korea applies the same fire retardation standards as those used in the United States, where the cars were built starting in August 2012. Some of the U.S.-built models were exported to South Korea..

There have been no reports of fires or injuries related to the problem, according to Toyota. The safety standard requires a certain burn rate as a flame moves across the seat heater’s cloth pad.

The number of affected vehicles at its U.S. dealers totaled about 36,000, or about 13 percent of dealer inventory, according to the Japanese automaker. However, that does not include vehicles in transit to dealers or those already sold to consumers. In the United States alone, the number of affected vehicles could be over 111,000, according to Kelley Blue Book.

The company has informed the NHTSA of the fire retardation problem and would file an official report outlining the noncompliance with the standard, according to Toyota spokesman John Hanson. Toyota did not feel a recall was necessary, according to Hanson.

NHTSA, in an emailed statement:

“NHTSA is monitoring the risk associated with this noncompliance and will evaluate Toyota’s petition once it is received. As always, safety is our top priority and NHTSA will take appropriate action as warranted.”

Affected vehicles are the 2012-2014 Camry mid-sized sedan and Camry hybrid, 2013-2014 Avalon sedan, Avalon hybrid, Sienna minivan, Tacoma pickup truck, 2014 Carolla subcompact and Tundra pickup truck equipped with seat heaters that have been sold since August 2012, when the fabric supplier was changed, according to Hanson and the NHTSA.

Toyota dealers have been told to stop selling any of the affected vehicles until the seat heater can be replaced, according to Hanson. The automaker will address requests by individual owners to replace the part at no cost on a case-by-case basis.

Source: Reuters

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