Toyota reportedly has told employees that it has a fix for the 2.3 million vehicles at risk of sticking accelerators. But, publicly the automaker was saying only that it would have an announcement next week, leaving owners such as Brian Bartichek of Massapequa Park afraid every time he drives his Toyota Camry and leaving dealers losing sales.
Bartichek - who calls his 2008 Camry "the suicide machine" - said the accelerator has stuck about eight times since September with either him or his 18-year-old son, Joseph, behind the wheel. Joseph Bartichek, who used to commute by car to Brookville to the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, experienced the first incident and no longer is permitted to drive the car, his father said.
Brian Bartichek said he's angry at Toyota for offering no help so far. Although he has owned four Toyotas and a Lexus, he said it's questionable whether he'll buy another vehicle from the carmaker.
"All I want to do is keep my family safe," he said. "Right now, with the way they're handling this, I don't feel safe at all."
Toyota is sending new gas pedal assemblies to its factories rather than its dealership service departments, The Associated Press reported Friday. The move angered some dealers who say they should get the parts to take care of the millions of car owners whose accelerators may stick.
But Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons told the AP that the company has not sent parts to its dealers because it has yet to determine whether it will repair - or replace altogether - the gas pedals on the 4.2 million Toyotas that have been recalled worldwide. He said the automaker will announce next week how it will solve the problem, and the repair work should be finished in less than a month.
Bartichek said he has learned to step on the brake with his left foot to slow the car when the accelerator sticks, while slipping his right foot under the accelerator pedal to raise it.
Two congressional committees have scheduled hearings for Thursday and Feb. 25 regarding the stuck accelerators.
Local dealers have declined to speak to the media, citing a directive from Toyota to refer all media calls to the corporation's public relations office in California. Mark Schienberg, president of the 400-plus member Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, said local Toyota dealers are telling him that showroom traffic is down dramatically. "Everything has stopped cold dead," he said.
John McEleney, chairman of the Virginia-based National Automobile Dealers Association, estimated Friday that Toyota's 1,234 U.S. dealers could lose $1.75 million to $2 million a month each in revenue at least temporarily, but perhaps permanently, if buyers opt for other brands rather than waiting for Toyota's models to go back on sale.
Schienberg said losses probably will be larger for the 26 Toyota stores in this region - including 10 on Long Island - because they tend to sell higher-than-average volumes.
Honda, meanwhile, announced its own, far smaller recall Friday: 646,000 Fit, Jazz and City models sold globally. It said a master power window switch in the driver's door might overheat and catch fire if subject to large amounts of liquid, such as rainwater. In South Africa, one person was killed last year in a fire related to the malfunction.