Toyota idles plants to let sales catch up

WASHINGTON — Toyota said Tuesday it plans to idle production temporarily at assembly plants in Kentucky in the wake of widespread recalls in the United States.

Rick Hesterberg, spokesman for the Georgetown, Ky., plant, said Tuesday the plant will not be making cars on Feb. 26. Three more non-production days are possible in March, but it will depend on rebounding sales.

"We're trying to keep inventories in line and adjusting to the sales demand," Hesterberg said. "Inventory has not leveled off as it normally would have, so we're adjusting to that."

Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said a plant in San Antonio, Texas, has scheduled production breaks for the weeks of March 15 and April 12.

Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally during the past four months because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats and brakes, threatening to undermine the safety and quality reputation of the world's No. 1 automaker.

Goss confirmed that the decision was connected to the recalls. He said workers at the plants will be retained and paid during the production suspensions and will receive additional training.

The Georgetown plant builds the Camry, Avalon and Venza for Toyota. The Texas plant manufactures the Tundra pickup truck.

Toyota temporarily suspended sales of vehicles including the Camry and the Corolla in late January after it issued a recall of millions of vehicles over problems with potentially sticky gas pedals. The stop sale was meant to give the automaker time to come up with a fix.

Dealers began selling affected vehicles again after about five days, when Toyota announced a repair that it said would solve the problem. But the lost sales days meant that many dealers were left with higher numbers of unsold cars.

Goss said the automaker wants to ensure that dealers don't build up excessive inventories as they try to clear the cars still on their lots.

"Our dealers are busy trying to sell those vehicles, but we can't let inventory back up on top of that," he said.

Toyota has been fixing vehicles under recall. Toyota vice president Bob Carter told reporters at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Fla., on Monday that the company had repaired about 500,000 of the 2.3 million vehicles that have been recalled over a potentially sticky gas pedal. Toyota said its president, Akio Toyoda, will answer more questions Wednesday in Japan about the beleaguered company's recalls. Toyoda will give updates at the Tokyo news conference on the global recall of 400,000 Prius gas-electric hybrids, the company said Tuesday.