With its jealously guarded reputation for quality under attack because of sludge-clogged engines, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. last week unveiled two major efforts aimed at defusing the problem.
First, the automaker said it has made a running production change to its widely used 3.0-liter V-6 engine that will improve circulation by enabling oil to drain faster into the sump - an apparent acknowledgement that engine design has been at least part of the problem.
Second, Toyota said it will pay for sludge-related repairs for eight years from the date of purchase for all 1997-2002 Toyota and Lexus vehicles with the 3.0-liter IMZ V-6 engine and all 1997-2001 Toyota vehicles with the now discontinued 5SFE 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine.
Sludge buildup causes engine performance to deteriorate and, in extreme cases, causes engines to seize.
Toyota's new policy is a dramatic change from a so-called Special Policy Adjustment begun in February. Amid increasing criticism for refusing to deal with the problem, Toyota notified 3.3 million owners of the affected engines that sludge-related repairs would be covered for one year, as long as they proved the oil had been changed at least once in the previous year.
It insisted then - as it does with the new policy - that owner negligence is the cause of the problem.