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Toyota to slow U.S. production

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Toyota is planning to suspend production at two U.S. plants as sales lag following the automaker's massive recall of its vehicles.

Mike Goss, a Toyota spokesman, said the company will retain all of its workers during the suspensions, which will take place at plants in Kentucky and Texas in the weeks ahead.

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The temporary shutdowns are aimed at adjusting production levels following a series of recalls that forced Toyota to halt sales of some of its most popular models.

"We don't want inventory to build up for our dealers," Goss said. "We can't keep sending vehicles to dealers until they can start moving those vehicles."

He said the company has used other methods to slow production in the past, such as limiting overtime, but that "elimination days are kind of the final step in that process."

The Kentucky plant, where Toyota's top-selling Camry is made, will not produce cars on Feb. 26. Goss said the plant could go dark on a few more days the following week, though no official plans have been made.

The Texas plant will halt production the week of March 15 and again in mid April. The plant, where Toyota makes Tundra pickup trucks, will be modified to begin producing Tacoma trucks during the suspension, Goss said.

Toyota has recalled more than 8.1 million vehicles worldwide for problems related to sudden acceleration and unresponsive break pedals, among other things. The company has apologized for the safety lapses and pledged to repair the recalled vehicles quickly.

Meanwhile, the number of customer complaints filed with federal safety regulators has spiked in recent weeks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there have been a total of 34 Toyota complaints alleging fatalities since 2000.

The widely publicized safety issues have taken a toll on sales. Earlier this month, Toyota said January sales fell 16% from a year earlier, worse than a forecast of a 12% year-over-year decline from sales tracker Edmunds.com.

To help revive sales, the automaker is considering a variety of incentive options aimed at drawing customers back into its showrooms.

At the same time, Toyota has launched a public relations campaign aimed at salvaging the company's once-sterling reputation.

Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda, and other company executives will take questions about the recall efforts Wednesday at a press conference in Tokyo.

The company has been ramping up lobbying, consulting and attorney teams ahead of appearances on Capitol Hill. Toyota is scheduled to go before two House committees next week and a Senate committee next month.  To top of page

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