DETROIT — Toyota said it began shipping gas pedal parts to its dealers Friday for use in fixing the millions of cars and trucks recalled because of accelerators that could become stuck.
Company spokesman Brian Lyons said he did not know when the parts would arrive or how long it would take the automaker to complete repairs on the 4.2 million vehicles worldwide — 2.3 million of them in the U.S. —covered by the recall. He said Toyota has not yet decided whether to repair the accelerators or replace them altogether.
Toyota will release details sometime next week about how it intends to solve the problem, Lyons said.
The parts "are on their way to the dealers in preparation for the recall launch," he said.
Until Friday, Toyota had been sending the components to its factories, angering some dealers who have not had parts to repair their customers' cars since the recall was announced on Jan. 21. But Lyons vehemently denied any suggestion that the factories were being given priority over dealerships, as some dealers suspected.
Some dealers said they should get the parts first, so that they can fix the cars already on the road.
Earl Stewart, owner of a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla., said his mechanics might not know the details of how to fix the gas pedals, but they know how to install new ones.
"That's absolutely stupid," he said of sending the parts to factories. "It makes no sense at all."
On Friday, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda made his first public comments about the recall. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he told Japanese broadcaster NHK: "I am very sorry that we are making our customers feel concerned."
"People can feel safe driving in the current situation," he added. "Please trust that we are responding so it will be even safer."
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports, an influential publication for car buyers, has suspended its "recommended" status for the eight recalled models, dealing another blow to the Japanese automaker's reputation in the U.S.
"Although incidents of sudden acceleration are rare, we are taking this action because the vehicles have been identified as potentially unsafe without a fix yet being available to consumers," said Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports.
Toyota dealers have been complaining for days that the automaker has left them in the dark about the nature of the gas pedal problem, when and how it will be fixed, and what to tell customers fearful their accelerators will get stuck and cause their cars to crash.
Toyota owners likewise were both confused about what to do with their cars and angry that the company had no 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 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has attributed five deaths and 17 injuries to unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2006, but it could not say whether any of those involved vehicles covered by the recall.
Toyota stopped selling eight U.S. models, including the top-selling Camry, on Tuesday. It also announced that it will stop building them until the problem is fixed.
The company presented a remedy on Thursday to NHTSA and 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 and mechanics must be trained on whatever solution the company ultimately decides on.
Toyota said that not all of the models listed in the recall have the faulty gas pedals, which were made by CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind.
The recall in the U.S. covers 2.3 million vehicles and involves the 2009-10 RAV4 crossover, the 2009-10 Corolla, the 2009-10 Matrix hatchback, the 2005-10 Avalon, the 2007-10 Camry, the 2010 Highlander crossover, the 2007-10 Tundra pickup and the 2008-10 Sequoia SUV. The recall has been expanded to models in Europe and China.