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Toyota halts sale of certain new vehicles with heated seats 

Toyota Motor Corp. has notified its dealers in Texas and across North America to stop selling various models that have a non-compliant part in the seat heaters. The part does not meet current fire retardation standards set forth in both South Korea and the United States. The problem was initially identified by safety officials in South Korea. Toyota says that about 36,000 vehicles equipped with heated seats made after August 2012 are involved. They include the 2013 and 2014 models of the Camry sedan, Camry hybrid, Corolla subcompact, Avalon sedan, Avalon hybrid, Sienna minivan, Tacoma pickup and Tundra pickup. August 2012 was when the Japanese automaker changed fabric suppliers for these eight models.

Although these models are among the most popular of the ones that Toyota sells in the United States, Kelly Blue Book figures suggest that an estimated eight percent of the 2013-2014 Toyotas sold in the U.S. come equipped with heated seats. However, all Avalons come with heated seats. Of the approximately 36,000 total vehicles involved, it is estimated that 13,850 are Avalons and 10,100 are Siennas. The so-called "stop" order affects vehicles in dealer stocks and some still in transit.

Toyota actually reported the issue to U.S. officials, and it is possible that the NHTSA will issue a recall. However, Toyota has stated that it does not believe that a recall is warranted, citing the fact that no fires, accidents or injuries have been reported. It will replace the non-compliant part for any vehicle owner that requests it.

An automaker can incur liability if a defective product causes property damage or injury. Thus far, Toyota's problem with a non-compliant part in some of its heated seats has not been reported to have caused damage or injury. Nonetheless, if someone is injured because of this defective product before a recall is issued, that person may have grounds for a lawsuit against the car manufacturer.

Source: Automotive News, "Toyota tells N.A. dealers to stop selling 8 models for possible fire risk", January 30, 2014

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