DETROIT – The Associated Press has learned that Toyota is sending new gas pedal systems to car factories rather than dealerships who want the parts to take care of millions of customers whose pedals may stick.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons confirms information in a company e-mail obtained by the AP that says parts were shipped to factories. Lyons says that's how the company normally distributes parts.
But some dealers say they should get the parts first because they now have no way to fix the pedals on any of the 4.2 million recalled vehicles affecting eight U.S. models.
Toyota has halted production and sales of the models, including the best-selling Camry sedan.
Lyons said Toyota did not send the parts to dealers because it has not decided whether to have the systems in the recalled vehicles repaired or replaced.
The company on Thursday presented a remedy to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it is awaiting a decision before proceeding.
"We're not ready to launch this program yet," Lyons said, adding that letters must be sent to customers whose vehicles were recalled and service technicians must be trained on whatever solution the company ultimately decides.
He said he did not know if any parts had been shipped from factories to parts depots, which is the next step in the process, but dealerships don't have them.
Engineers and other workers were up all night Thursday getting the process ready, he said.
The company has said its highest priority is fixing the pedals for existing customers.
"Nothing is more important to Toyota than doing the right thing for our customers — and restoring their confidence in the safety of our vehicles," Toyota said in a statement.
But dealers and customers were unhappy with the delays in getting parts.
Earl Stewart, owner of a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla., said his service technicians might not know the details of how to fix the gas pedal systems, but they know to install new ones, and the parts should have gone to dealers rather than factories.
"That's absolutely stupid," he said. "It makes no sense at all."
He said Toyota may be trying to save money by using a less-expensive repair on the millions of vehicles that already have been sold, and using the new parts to restart factories that have been closed while it irons out the problem.
"That just doesn't wash well with the customers out there driving these vehicles," he said. "I think at this point you throw cost to the wind and do everything you can to rebuild your brand and your image."
Toyota owners were both confused about what to do with their cars and angry that they didn't have any answers on when a fix would be available.
"I've got a $30,000 vehicle and they don't know how to fix it," said Johnathan Jones, a 30-year-old salesman from Fort Mitchell, Ala., who said he won't put his 10-year-old twins in his 2009 Toyota Tundra. "To me, it's a big safety hazard with my children."
The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is launching an investigation into the problems with Toyota's accelerator pedal systems. It has scheduled a Feb. 4 hearing entitled, "Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?"