By Dave Carpenter, AP Business Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — A Toyota executive said Wednesday that dealers have so far reinforced the sticking accelerator on more than 220,000 recalled vehicles, with repairs continuing at a rate of about 50,000 vehicles a day.
"Nothing is more important to Toyota than the safety and reliability of our vehicles, and right now we are completely focused on fixing the vehicles that have been affected under this recall," Bob Carter, Toyota group vice president and general manager, said at the Chicago Auto Show.
Some dealers have been open around the clock while others are carrying out the repairs at offsite facilities, he said.
Carter added that the voluntary recall of the 2010 Prius and Lexus HS 250h models to update braking software, in response to complaints about braking problems, also is proceeding.
Toyota executives were hoping to focus attention at the annual show on its redesigned 2011 Avalon and new Sienna. The Avalon, for model years 2005 through 2010, was among the eight car and truck models recalled over potentially sticky gas pedals; the Sienna was not.
But the world's No. 1 carmaker was in the spotlight because of its massive safety recalls, especially with the weather-related postponement in Washington of a congressional hearing on its recalls of 8.5 million cars and trucks.
Carter, speaking to hundreds of journalists at a packed press conference, said he had no information to indicate the recall might be expanded to include its popular Corolla as some consumers fear. But he did suggest that no recall is imminent, noting that efforts to look into the matter by the Department of Transportation are "not even a preliminary investigation" at this point.
Drivers have submitted complaints to the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, saying their 2009 and 2010 Corollas can be difficult to steer and wander across lanes during highway driving.
NHTSA said Tuesday it is reviewing the complaints about Corolla but stressed that it is standard procedure to review all driver complaints. The agency receives thousands each year about a wide range of vehicles.
Toyota's rivals have been careful not to express any pleasure in Toyota's travails. Mark Reuss, North American president for General Motors Co., said the Japanese company's problems are not good for the auto industry.
"There may be an opportunity for us to get some consideration from folks that we didn't get before," he acknowledged in a speech. But, he added, "We'd like to sell them our vehicles based on the merits."
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