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Toyota halts sale of six models in U.S. amid seat fabric concerns

No fires reported, but fabric on some heated seats doesn't meet U.S. safety code

Published January 30, 2014

Toyota has told North American dealers to stop selling six popular models with heated seats because the fabric doesn’t meet flammability standards and potentially could catch fire.

The order affects 36,000 cars, trucks and minivans, about 13 per cent of the inventory on dealer lots in the U.S., spokesman John Hanson said. Also affected are additional vehicles in Canada, Mexico, Korea, Israel and other countries. No total number was available, but a spokesman said it would likely be in the thousands.

No fires or injuries have been reported, but Toyota can’t legally sell cars that don’t comply with U.S. safety codes, spokesman John Hanson said.

Dealers can no longer sell certain Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma models with heated seats from the 2013 and 2014 model years, as well as Corollas and Tundras from 2014. The Camry is the top-selling car in the U.S. with more than 408,000 sales last year.

One soft material beneath the seat covers does not comply with U.S. safety standards, Hanson said.

Toyota doesn’t know yet how long the repairs will take. Hanson said a replacement material is being manufactured and is already being installed at factories. Dealers will use the material to fix cars now on their lots.

“We don’t think it will take long to get the parts and make the changes,” Hanson said. “I don’t have any numbers on the timing.”

As for vehicles already on the road, Toyota contends a recall isn’t necessary since there have been no fires or incidents. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will decide if a recall is needed.

The timing couldn’t be worse. With much of the nation in the midst of a record cold snap, people will take heat wherever they can get it. “There’s sure to be high demand for models with seat heaters,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

All the vehicles affected by the order were made at U.S. factories, Hanson said.

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