BLOG: Media in Chicago descends on Toyota, but not Avalon

Bradford Wernle covers Chrysler for Automotive News
CHICAGO -- The 2011 Toyota Avalon surely had an inauspicious product debut on Wednesday.

Instead of talking about the freshened car, Bob Carter, Toyota Division vice president, found himself pinned against the door of the car with a thicket of microphones and camera lenses thrust in his face.

The media wanted answers about Toyota’s recall crisis. Carter gamely answered questions about the company’s response to sticking accelerator pedals on various models and also about balky brakes on the Prius and Lexus HS 250h hybrids.

He said dealers had been supplied with the parts to fix the pedals and that more than 220,000 vehicles had been fixed so far with 50,000 more getting fixes every day.

Carter said Toyota had briefly considered not going ahead with its news conference here.

“That just didn’t feel right,” he said after the conference. “My decision was that now is the most important time” to show customers that Toyota remains committed to launching quality products in spite of its current travails.

Dealers have bent over backwards to get the fixes done as quickly as possible, in some cases keeping their service departments open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he said.

By the way, the 2011 Avalon does have the redesigned accelerator pedal.