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Janesville Toyota dealer awaits rush on repairs

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JAMES P. LEUTE
February 5, 2010
— Bill Hesser was at his desk at Hesser Toyota-Scion earlier than normal Thursday morning.

“Maybe today’s the day,” he said.


Hesser and his staff have been waiting for a rush of area Toyota owners since the automaker announced two major U.S. recalls covering millions of vehicles.


But for Hesser, it’s yet to happen.


Toyota has recalled eight popular vehicles that have gas pedals that can get trapped under floor mats or become stuck on their own and fail to return to the idle position.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation opened an investigation Thursday into brake problems in the 2010 Prius, the latest in a series of safety troubles at Toyota that have confused drivers and strained the Japanese automaker’s relationship with U.S. regulators.


Toyota earlier Thursday acknowledged design problems with the brakes in its prized gas-electric hybrid, but said it was still deciding how to inform customers and whether a recall is needed.


As far as the gas pedal recall is concerned, Hesser said his staff has been fully trained to fix the problem and has the parts to do it.


“If there’s an issue, we want to resolve it,” he said. “It’s a 10-minute fix—15 at the most—and you’re on your way.”


Through Wednesday, only one person had pulled in off the street to have the repair. Others have been serviced through appointments and proactive calls and e-mails from Hesser’s staff when news of the recall first surfaced.


“We’ve trained our people, and we’ve got the parts,” he said.


Customers can either make an appointment or stop in at the dealership on Humes Road.


“We’ve been expecting a deluge.”


Hesser said his staff is prepared to extend its regular service hours if necessary. He said he’ll make that call as demand warrants.


And it could surface, he said, based on the numbers of Toyotas in the service area Hesser Toyota is responsible for.


“There are a lot of cars out there, but our people are prepared for it,” Hesser said.


Since the recall, Toyota trimmed production and ordered dealers to stop selling the affected vehicles.


Hesser said he’s noticed the fallout on the sales side of the dealership.


“It’s slow,” he said. “It just seems that people are locked up and frozen. They’re not doing anything.”


Toyota for the first time on Thursday gave an estimate of the costs of the global gas-pedal recall. The $2 billion total represents $1.1 billion for repairs and $770 million to $880 million in lost sales.


Toyota is expecting to lose 100,000 in vehicle sales because of the recall fallout—80,000 of them in North America.



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