Toyota's problems hit home for family

“I called the dealership this morning after I heard about it and they told me they had not even received information or parts to repair what the problem is,” said Joyce Stevenson, who lives in Newnan and drives a 2007 Camry LE, V-6, 4-door sedan.

“Well, if it’s serious enough for them to stop selling them, then why aren’t they in a hurry to get the parts to fix them for people who have already bought one?”

Toyota said Tuesday it was suspending production at six North American car-assembly plants and stopping sales of some of its top-selling models, including the Camry, to fix gas pedals that could stick and cause unintended acceleration.

Atlanta's Duncan Harle and wife Sharon Harle took opposite sides in what to do about their 2007 Camry. He’s a Camry loyalist, he said, having owned an earlier model that last 11 years and 240,000 miles.

“They are, by far, the best automobiles I’ve ever owned,” he said.

Sharon took the hard line.

“I’m done,” she said. “I don’t want another Camry. We have a 4-year-old, and this is a family car. “My gut feeling is let’s just go ahead and change it up.”

The repercussions figure to play out for a while, across the country, and metro Atlanta, where, according to R.L. Polk & Co. – which tracks auto sales by vehicle registrations – more than 125,000 new Toyota trucks and cars have been sold since 2006.

Auto analysts point out that Toyota has a loyal customer base, which should mitigate any long-term sales impact.

The Harles were more concerned about their short term financial position. What if they decided to sell the Camry? How much would they get?

Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive Markey analyst for Kelley Blue Book, which tracks the resale value of cars, advised in a statement Wednesday that if you’re a Toyota owner eager to sell or trade, it’s best to wait.

“While dealers are savvy about these things and understand that the car can still be re-sold once proper repair has been identified, they might be reluctant to accept the vehicle in trade, or offer a lower price for it than would otherwise be the case,” advised Nerad.

“Given those facts, consumers might want to hang on to their car for a few more weeks until the situation clarifies.”

Safety experts say Toyota owners should practice shifting gears to neutral in case their cars experience a runaway condition.

The company said it is up to dealers on a “case by case basis” to decide if owners could get replacement cars.

The company’s briefing papers for dealers, according to the automotive industry publication Edmunds.com, say the problem appears to be linked to accelerator pedals produced by the CTS company at a facility in Canada.

Duncan Harle said he’s going to call his dealer and have on hand a notice the company sent out in December, as well as a letter from its Web site.

“Can we bring the car in for a recall, and if we bring it in, what can they do for us?” he wondered. “I’ll give them a chance to fix it.”

Sharon Harle is firm in getting something else.

“We’re going to buy a new car,” she said. “I can’t trust this car.”

Joyce Stevenson said the first thing she’s going to do is removed the front car mats – as she’s been advised by her dealership – before she drives home from work Wednesday. Tonight she and husband Robert will decide what to do next.

“He wants me to park the Camry and drive his Chevrolet pickup,” she said. “I just might do that.”

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