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Toyota seat heater issue could impact Florida consumers

We have discussed multiple vehicle recalls due to potential or known defects that could cause a vehicle to malfunction and perhaps result in serious injury. There are other steps that car makers take instead of or in addition to recalls, though.

Toyota has instructed its dealers to halt their sale of a number of 2013 and 2014 vehicles due to a potential problem with the heated seats. This includes approximately 36,000 vehicles currently in stock at dealers around the country. The car maker is also instructing dealers not to sell impacted vehicles currently en route to dealerships. It is not known how many additional vehicles that is. However, it is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration not to require a recall of impacted vehicles already sold.

The NHTSA sometimes agrees to no recall if the automaker can show that "noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety." That is the case here, according to Toyota. The problem, which was detected by a safety agency in Korea, is that "a component on the heated seats does not comply with a federal safety standard for flame retardants." The impacted models are among Toyota's most popular 2013 and 2014 vehicles. They include Avalons, Camrys, Corollas and Tacomas. Toyota says it will change the non-compliant component on all vehicles in dealer stock and those still under assembly.

The NHTSA has yet to decide whether it will require Toyota to issue a recall of those vehicles already sold in Florida and throughout the country. Toyota says it knows of no fires caused by the heating component in these seats.

Auto makers and other companies are usually wise to get out ahead of a potential safety issue and err on the side of fixing a problem before it causes damage, injury or worse. Nonetheless, numerous people find out the hard way that they have a defective product. Companies can and should be held responsible for these defects, whether they were aware of them or not. Sometimes, if many people were harmed in the same way, a group of plaintiffs will pursue a class action suit. Other times, the situation warrants an individual lawsuit. Florida personal injury attorneys can assist people who have been victims of defective or dangerous products and help them determine the best course of legal action.

Source: The New York Times, "Some Toyota Model Sales Halted Over Seat Problem" Christopher Jensen, Jan. 30, 2014

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