For Toyota of Melbourne General Manager Christopher Heinze, the automaker’s recent recalls have been a challenge. But he also sees it as an opportunity to deliver the customer service customers expect from Toyota.
“We’re trying to use this as an opportunity to let our customers know that none of this has been taken lightly at any point,” said Heinze, whose store at 24 N. Harbor City Blvd. is one of two major local Toyota dealerships. He wants to make things right for his customers, to reassure them that the recall issues will be resolved, and to make getting the repairs as convenient as possible.
At Toyota of Melbourne, that includes extending service hours by two hours, until 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 7 p.m. on Saturdays. During the peak of demand in February, the service department also added Sunday hours.
Heinze said he expects the dealership’s extended evening service hours will continue for the rest of the year, He added appointments for the recall-related service work are encouraged, but not required.
For customers uncomfortable with driving their vehicles until the repairs are made, Toyota of Melbourne had been paying the cost of towing the vehicle to the dealership, “no questions asked,” Heinze said. The dealership also has been providing loaner vehicles to affected customers. “We don’t want this to be inconvenient”.
In addition, anyone getting recall repair work receives a “Client Appreciation Card” worth $750 for future parts or service work. Customers can use up to 12 percent of the card’s total value at any one time.
The dealership also had eight master technicians specially trained at a Toyota training facility in Jacksonville to perform the recall-related repair work.
There are two recalls involved affecting about 8-million vehicles, both related to accelerator pedals. Some vehicles need fixes for both issues; some for one or the other; and some for neither. Specifics are available on Toyota’s Web site.
Here is how Toyota describes the two recalls to customers on its Web site.
Sticking pedal accelerator recall: “In rare instances, over time, and under certain environmental conditions, there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to idle position,” Toyota said.
Toyota said its engineers “developed and rigorously tested a solution that is both effective and simple. A precision-cut steel reinforcement bar will be installed into the accelerator pedal assembly, thereby eliminating the excess friction that has caused pedals to stick in rare instances.”
Heinze said this repair, the more common of the two recalls, typically takes 45 minute to one hour at his dealership.
Potential floor mat interference with accelerator pedal recall: “This condition is the potential for an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat to interfere with or entrap the accelerator pedal and cause it to get stuck in the wide-open position,” Toyota said. “Toyota has determined that this condition can occur in vehicles in which the driver’s-side floor mat is not compatible with the vehicle and/or is not properly secured.”
Heinze said the fix for this involves several things, depending on the specific vehicle involved, including trimming the thickness of the pedal by a quarter-inch; replacing all-weather floor mats on affected vehicles that have them with newly designed mats; and software upgrades to install a brake override system in certain affected vehicles. This repair typically takes about two hours.
According to Heinze, Toyota estimated that about 7,000 of its vehicles within a 100-mile radius of Toyota of Melbourne are affected by one or both of the recalls. Of those, Toyota of Melbourne repaired about 1,700 of them within six weeks of the recall notice, and at that point was proceeding on a pace of 150 to 200 a day, Heinze said.
“It’s been going extremely smoothly,” Heinze said. “Our No. 1 priority is to get everybody taken care of.”
For more information
To find out more details about the Toyota recalls, including which specific vehicle are affected, go to www.toyota.com/recall.
Toyota says customers with questions or concerns can contact the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-800-331-4331. The Toyota Customer Experience Center’s hours are: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Customers also can contact their local Toyota dealership. Toyota of Melbourne General Manager Christopher Heinze said his Web site (www.toyotaofmelbourne.com) has links to the recall information. The dealership phone number for customers with questions is 321-254-8888.