Toyota has identified what it believes is causing its sudden acceleration problem and how the automaker plans to fix it, as company president Jim Lentz went on a media blitz Monday to restore confidence in customers affected by the massive safety recall.
In a release, the company said it will begin fixing accelerator pedals this week by reinforcing the pedal assembly, thereby eliminating friction that sometimes cause the sudden acceleration to occur.
Lentz told NBC's Today Show that the reinforcement parts were shipped today and dealers have been trained on how to install them. He said the company became aware of the sticky pedal problems last October and denied that the company's rapid growth hindered their ability to quickly identify and resolve the issues.
"There's no question that we were fast growing," said Lentz. "Could that have had an issue with some of our quality issues? It's quite possible."
"I apologize for this situation and I hope you'll give us a chance to earn back your trust," said Lentz, adding that customers will be notified via mail on how affected models can be remedied. Yet, some safety analysts say the announcement comes too little, too late.
"They're at a point where their reputation is rapidly declining, and the credibility is rapidly declining in a way where probably no one would have expected," said safety expert Sean Kane.
In Washington, the failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to spot the problem sooner is also drawing questions.
"There's no reason they could not have known about this and been further involved in pushing Toyota," said former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook.
Toyota refused repeated requests from ABC News for its executives to answer questions about the problem, and when its president and CEO Akio Toyoda was tracked down in Switzerland at an economic conference, he said he was "deeply sorry" but offered no other explanation of what went wrong.
Toyoda then got into a black Audi station wagon and drove away.
Toyota has been similarily quiet in full newspaper advertisements the company has been placing, offering scant new information about what it called a temporary issue except to say it had found an effective remedy for the sticky gas pedals.
Nine million vehicles are affected by the recall announced last week. The recall includes the following models:
• Certain 2009-2010 RAV4
• Certain 2009-2010 Corolla
• 2009-2010 Matrix
• 2005-2010 Avalon
• Certain 2007-2010 Camry
• Certain 2010 Highlander
• 2007-2010 Tundra
• 2008-2010 Sequoia
Toyota dealers, like Ernie Boch, Jr. of Boch Toyota in Norwood, Mass., have been told that all affected vehicles will be fixed by summer. Boch said, "I would estimate to take care of the recall, four or five months."
Last Wednesday, Toyota told millions of owners of cars involved the giant safety recall to keep driving.
"Stop sales does not mean stop driving," said John Hanson of Toyota USA.
On Thursday, Toyota told ABC News that new accelerator pedals, manufactured by CTS, had passed tests for problems and were being shipped this week.
"We are looking to repair or replace as many of the accelerators in as short a time as possible," said Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons.