x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

3,000 Toyotas recalled in UAE

The company has been ordered to recall 3,120 vehicles in the UAE as part of a global campaign to fix potentially lethal accelerator problems.

Toyota employees work on cars at a service station in Dubai.
Toyota employees work on cars at a service station in Dubai.

Toyota has been ordered to recall 3,120 vehicles in the UAE as part of a global campaign to fix potentially lethal accelerator problems, the Emirates Standardisation and Metrology Authority (ESMA) said yesterday. Mohammed Badri, the acting director general of ESMA, said the authority had met Toyota executives on Sunday and initiated the recall as a precaution.

Dealers have until April to complete the recall, he said. "We told them that you have to call one by one all the people that you have sold to and try to co-ordinate with them, in a timely way, to bring in the cars and do the modification, and give them back," Mr Badri said. Toyota Motor recently announced it would recall millions of its vehicles worldwide after reports of cars suddenly accelerating without the drivers pressing on the pedals. The problem has been linked to at least 19 deaths in the past decade.

Although the problem occurs mainly in cold climates, Mr Badri said the recall was necessary in the UAE because in some areas, temperatures could drop below freezing. "This is our responsibility," he said. "We don't want just to issue the recall, we want to make sure that [the problems] will not happen - to make sure these problems are not occurring, and not to wait after the problems occurred." The Toyota vehicles affected in the UAE are the 2005 to 2010 Avalon sedan and the 2009 and 2010 Sequoia sport utility vehicle. These are two of the eight Toyota models recalled worldwide.

Simon Frith, the managing director of Al-Futtaim Motors, said UAE owners of Avalons and Sequoias were unlikely to experience the same technical faults due to the warm climate. However, on February 1, the official distributor of Toyota vehicles in the Emirates decided to launch a service campaign to call in the owners of these affected vehicles for inspection and possible repair. "It didn't really matter if it was less likely to be an issue here because of the climactic conditions, we wanted to put in the same resolution for our customers as everybody else is getting to give them complete peace of mind," Mr Frith said.

The parts needed for the repairs will be arriving at Al-Futtaim in the next few days, and free repairs will be available to UAE car owners from February 24. The company has not received any calls so far of a confirmed case in the UAE of an owner experiencing the technical problems, Mr Frith said. The Ministry of Economy and Al-Futtaim took out advertisements in local newspapers on Sunday informing residents about the repair campaign, Mr Frith said.

"The decision has been taken jointly with TMC and the UAE Ministry of Economy [and] Department of Consumer Protection to launch a service campaign to carry out minor modifications to these vehicles to ensure that we give our customers peace of mind," the advertisement read. The vehicle fault typically occurs when low temperatures cause condensation to form after the heater is turned on. The condensation creates resistance when the accelerator is released, the advertisement read.

The repair entails inserting a steel bar into the accelerator mechanism. Toyota models account for about one third of the local car market. Last year, Al-Futtaim sold about 56,000 cars in the UAE. Mr Badri said the recall issue and any other potential technical problems would also be discussed in the upcoming National Committee meeting in May. It would also be addressed at the GCC level later this year, he said.

"Already, we are contacting our partners in the GCC, where they have similar authorities," he said. Owners of Toyota vehicles can call Al-Futtaim's customer care team on (04) 206 6002. aligaya@thenational.ae