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Toyota Halts U.S. Sales of 8 Models

In an unprecedented auto-industry move - but echoing the massive Tylenol drug recall of 1982 - Toyota told its U.S. dealers Tuesday to immediately quit selling the new and used cars and trucks that it recalled on Jan. 21 because their throttles could stick open.

Toyota also said it will quit building 2010 versions of those models on Monday and that the halt will last until it finds a remedy for the stuck-throttle problem. That could take weeks, the company previously said, but it gave no forecast Tuesday.

For auto shoppers, it means that some of the most popular Toyota-brand vehicles will be harder to find or not available.

"This is major," says Jessica Caldwell, senior auto analyst at industry tracker Edmunds.com. The eight vehicles involved make up about two-thirds of Toyota-brand sales in the U.S., she estimates. Toyota's Lexus and Scion brands are not involved in this recall or the sales and production halts.

It's the right move - finally, says James Bell, executive market analyst at auto research site kbb.com. "It reminds me how conservative the culture is at Toyota."

Until Tuesday, Toyota had said it would continue making and selling the 2010 versions of the recalled models. It said the sticking-throttle problem appears only with age and wear, so, it said new ones are safe.

"Restoring confidence in Toyota" and ensuring customer safety were cited by Toyota U.S. Vice President Bob Carter as reasons for the halt.

"Toyota can recover, but this major and perhaps unprecedented step suggests the problem is serious," says Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond's law school.

On the other hand, he says, the drastic action shows that "Toyota is serious about fixing" the problem as well as its image.

Tylenol maker Johnson&Johnson pulled pain medicine Tylenol from shelves in 1982 when some people died after taking it. Those packages had been tampered with and poisoned. J&J later was praised for bold and fast action. Tylenol regained its popularity quickly once it returned to the market, with new, anti-tampering packaging.

Toyota's sticking-throttle recall is different from the recall of 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles late last year. In that one, throttles could get jammed open by floor mats. Toyota is trimming the gas pedals and later will replace them with pedals of a different design.

However, 1.7 million vehicles in the latest recall also are included in the floor-mat-related recall.

The sticking-throttle problem involves only vehicles using accelerator-pedal assemblies from CTS, a component supplier, Toyota says.

Some Camry plants, for example, use assemblies from another supplier and those cars will still be made and sold.

In its first public comment since the recall, CTS said Tuesday that of 1.4 million pedals surveyed, only eight had the sticking-throttle problem.

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