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Toyota Recalls Also Affect Some Older Vehicles


You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Toyota's massive recall involves mostly newer models, just a year or two old. But the recall also affects some older cars and pickups, which may have changed hands more than once. Will Toyota be able to track down all those used cars?

NPR's Richard Gonzales say it's not as hard as it sounds.

RICHARD GONZALES: Adam Simms owns a Toyota dealership in Silicon Valley where his staff is getting ready for the onslaught of customers to get their accelerator pedals repaired. Simms says he anticipates operating 24/7 to service as many 7,000 customers.

Mr. ADAM SIMMS (Owner, Toyota Sunnyvale): With our case at Toyota Sunnyvale, we can repair probably 300 cars per day.

GONZALES: Of course, some of those repairs will be on cars driven by people who never set foot in Simms' show operating 24/7 to service as many as 7,000 customers.

Mr.�SIMMS: With our case at Toyota Sunnyvale, we can repair probably 300 cars per day.

GONZALES: Of course, some of those repairs will be on cars driven by people who never set foot in Simms' showroom. Let's say you bought your Toyota from someone else, a private party or maybe your uncle's best friend.

Mr.�SIMMS: To make it easy, if you have a car, you can call into any of the Toyota dealerships with a VIN number, give them the year, make and the VIN number, and they'll check that car to see if it's involved in the recall.

GONZALES: The VIN, or vehicle identification number, is a 17-digit number stamped on a small metal plate where the windshield meets the dashboard on the driver's side. It's also on your car registration and filed with your local DMV. Simms says Toyota will use that number to track down used-car owners.

Mr.�SIMMS: Well, you have a license plate on the car, and it's registered at your current address, and most people keep their registrations updated. So they actually have access to that database for recall purposes only. So they will find you through your DMV.

GONZALES: And Simms says his dealership has already started contacting car owners. Toyota is also trying to reach out to customers in this country who may not speak English.

This week, when the company took out full-page ads to apologize for the recall, it included major Spanish-language dailies in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. And on its Spanish-language Web site, you can see Toyota's U.S. chief Jim Lentz repeating his apology, this time with Spanish subtitles.

Mr.�JIM LENTZ (President of U.S. Sales, Toyota): Toyota has always prided itself on building high-quality, durable cars that customers can depend on, and I know that we've let you down.

GONZALES: And tomorrow, Toyota says its video subtitles and translations of its English-language Web site will be offered in Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese.

But the nitty-gritty of what a non-English-speaking Toyota owner should do is still largely left to the ethnic media.

Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language).

Unidentified Man #2: (Speaking foreign language).

GONZALES: Here, Spanish-language WXTV in New York, who had a feature on how to respond to a malfunctioning accelerator pedal.

Meanwhile, some people are using Toyota's problems as an excuse to go car shopping, says Jose Puente(ph), general manager of Latino.

Mr. JOSE PUENTE (General Manager, Latino): Well, what we've seen is that the new and used Toyota shopping activity actually has gone up as the recall news has come out. The consequence of that is because maybe people are trying to get better deals. You know, Toyota's got a legacy of quality.

GONZALES: It's not unusual for consumers to go bargain-hunting when a product has a public relations problem, and that ultimately could work out for Toyota in the long run.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

SIEGEL: Toyota is not the only automaker dealing with a fix. Today, Ford announced it will update more than 17,000 Mercury Milan and Ford Fusion hybrids whose brakes the company says can give drivers the impression of failing. The company assures drivers that they are never without brakes, though they may perceive a drop-off in braking power during a transition between two braking systems. The repair involves a software, not a hardware fix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.