By on January 30, 2014


A lot of Toyota dealers are going to find it difficult to grind out their end-of-month goals, thanks to a stop-sale directive from the company that covers eight different models. Approximately 36,000 vehicles in dealer stock and an unknown number of additional vehicles inbound to dealers will have to be held.

Automotive News reports that a South Korean supplier notified Toyota that the parts used in its seat heaters did not meet United States standards for flame retardation. The company is preparing to replace the seat heaters with regulations-compliant parts.

The affected vehicles:

  • 2013 and 2014 Camry sedans
  • 2013 and 2014 Camry hybrids
  • 2013 and 2014 Avalon sedans
  • 2013 and 2014 Avalon hybrids
  • 2013 and 2014 Corolla
  • 2013 and 2014 Sienna
  • 2013 and 2014 Tundra
  • 2013 and 2014 Tacoma

Vehicles on the above list with heated fabric seats built since August 2012 are at risk. NHTSA has yet to issue any findings or opinions on the matter.

If you’re in the market for a fabric-interior Toyota with heated seats, you’re facing a wait. If you’re in the market for a leather-interior Toyota with heated seats, now’s the time to move. Like now. Oh, what a feeling!

Update: Toyota contacted us regarding the use of the word “fire” in the initial post, noting that “The fabric in the seats is flame retardant, it is a matter of HOW flame retardant when tested. Per NHTSA regulations Toyota will file a petition for a determination that this non-compliance issue is inconsequential relative to motor vehicle safety. NHTSA will determine if the petition will be accepted or denied.” To prevent a misunderstanding, we’ve amended the text. The picture at the top of the article stays, but now only because we enjoy the music of Alicia Keys— JB

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51 Comments on “Toyota Instructs Dealers To Halt Sales Of Eight Models (Updated With Additional Information)...”

  • avatar

    Geez, Toyota sure got burned.

  • avatar

    Its hard to imagine that this Korean supplier only supplies Toyota. Who else uses this non-compliant fabric, and why haven’t they put a stop on sales as well?

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. Given the sharing of parts across Japanese manufacturers, Kia, Hyundai home country, and GMs presence and manufacturing ops – I have to wonder who else is impacted.

      Here is another question – which I didn’t post so discretely below, what other manufacturers offer cloth heated seats in 2012+ models? I honestly didn’t think you could get factory heated seats from anyone in North America with cloth surfaces.

    • 0 avatar

      It is not a Korean Supplier. Korean safety officials who use the same standard as NHTSA were testing a Camry Hybrid assembled in the USA. When the test failed they informed Toyota and Toyota issued the stop sale and notified the NHTSA.

      Also the stop sale affects all cars with heated seats, leather or fabric.

      “One soft material beneath the seat covers does not comply with U.S. safety standards, Toyota US spokesman John Hanson said.”

      “Earl Stewart, owner of a dealership in North Palm Beach, Fla., said he can sell only a few of the 30 Avalon full-size cars on his lot because most have heated leather seats. ‘‘Hopefully we’ll get some parts in where we can get them fixed by the end of February,’’ he said. Other models such as the Camry aren’t as affected because they are more often sold with unheated cloth seats, he said

  • avatar

    It’s OK – because this will be a recall when it’s all said and done, it won’t count in Consumer Reports “dots”

    The next story will be the temporary removal of the CR “recommends” on these vehicles – until such time all repairs are done. We know this dance music already.

    I wonder how many vehicles are actually impacted – I always associated heated seats with leather, pleather, Naugahyde, synthetic suede, etc. etc.

    I actually didn’t know you could get vehicles with cloth heated seats from the factory in general (Toyota or otherwise). Also didn’t know on a 2013 Corolla you could get heated seats – period – regardless of seat coverings.

    My conclusion – bean counters, whether they be Detroit bean counter, Munich bean counters, Seoul bean counters, Adelaide bean counters, Beijing bean counters, Paris bean counters, or Tokyo bean counters – SUCK.

    • 0 avatar

      I was surprised as well. I thought only their Germans let you heat you butt on cloth. With all other manufacturers whean shopping for cars you are always pushed to the highest trim with leather to get heated front seats. It is kind of sad since in the snow belt I like to get heated mirrors and (the wife) wants heated seats… but other than that don’t even want the high-trim options.

      For a 2005 Mazda 3 i had the dealer install deat heating in the cloth seats ($350 I believe), which worked great. I’m sure it wasn’t fire-retardent cloth as seated heats were not an officiel option.

      Let me guess, soemone in a lab managed to set the seat on fire with a torch and now they need to recall before the US government as former GM owner starts another witch hunt. I bet anything there was no single actual incident. Or someaone dropped his cigarette and now figured coudl get a free seat whne he claims it was the heater that made that round hole with tabacco remains…

      • 0 avatar

        There probably was no incident, as stated in the story it was the component supplier that discovered the fault. They likely didn’t discover it through destructive testing of any kind. I would guess someone discovered the misapplication of material through an audit while sitting at a desk.

        • 0 avatar

          According to Edmunds, there have been no incidents.

          • 0 avatar

            LLN says the same. No incidents – no reports. The subcontractor in S. Korea notified Toyota they used “out of compliance” (my words not LLN words) that do not meet fire retardant requirements.

            Toyota is being EXTREMELY proactive here. But it makes sense, if someone roasted tomorrow and they could prove Toyota knew…well you know that dance music.

          • 0 avatar

            These days, every automaker is proactive about this stuff. The era of the Ford Pinto is ancient history.

            Still, it’s quite possible that somebody dropped the ball when reviewing the specs. In that sense, it could be indicative of a design or engineering mistake that should have been avoided.

          • 0 avatar
            sunridge place

            The S Korean govt caught this in testing and their standards mirror US standards. Not a supplier. Jack should clarify that too.

            They do appear to be tripping over themselves to notify NHTSA and issue the stop sale in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty much everyone from the compact class on up offers heated cloth seats at the very least. It’s on the luxury/premium cars that they only come with leather.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    In Canada you can get heated cloth seats in the 2013 Honda Civic.

    You can also get heated cloth seats in the 2014 Hyundai Accent GL… all you need is $17,874.

    Oh Canada!

  • avatar

    Heated cloth seats are a good idea! Too bad Toyota’s can burn.

    I like the heated front seats on my mom’s RAV4, but I hate the leather. Even if her’s did have cloth and the car was, say, a Camry, her RAV4 was built in May 2012, so she’s all good regardless.

  • avatar

    Light ’em up, up, up…
    Light ’em up, up, up…
    Light ’em up, up, up…

    I’m on FI…err, not sufficiently flame retardant.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Heated steering wheels are even better for some reason.

    • 0 avatar

      Alex (or wait was it Derek) once compared heated steering wheels to a certain type of sex/sex act that was argued before the Supreme Court to be made legal nation wide not all that long ago.

      Many members of the B&B got their shorts in a knot over it.

  • avatar

    Wait the Corolla has heated seats?

    Yes I too have been amazed at the # of heated cloth seats available now. My in-laws 2009 Torrent has heated cloth and recently looking at V6 late model Avengers and 200s more seem to have heated cloth than heated leather.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I wonder if this will cause dealers to want to move these units quickly—since they’re still taking up space and are still costing them money—or if it will cause dealers to hike the prices, since customers will presumably be waiting…

  • avatar

    this confused me earlier today when discussing it. the indication is that the _cloth_ which makes up the seat heater element is what needs to be replaced, not the cloth of the seats. and that the heating element is the same in leather or cloth seats.

    article at the Freep has comment from Toyota, notes that based on data from KBB, ~26% of 2013/14 Toyota have heated seats :

    this is serious money for Toyota, even if half the cars actually get the recall and it only costs them a couple of hundred bucks each to re-skin the seats after swapping out the heating elements.

  • avatar

    Well, well. Another Toyota recall; not validating parts, not watching suppliers. And this one so simple. The fix for this one? Cooler seat heaters, as the part will surely be a resistor to cut down the heat of the existing part–the cheap way out.

    • 0 avatar

      read the Freep article I pasted above. the Toyota person says they are changing the heating elements, which means re-skinning the portion of the seat which has the element which doesn’t meet the flammability regs. if the regs are about the flammability of the material, it doesn’t matter if the heaters are on or not – it doesn’t meet the regs, it doesn’t meet the regs. doesn’t matter if they turn off the heaters, the cloth itself doesn’t meet the regs. as the story was developing yesterday, I made the assumption they would just reduce the power sent to the heaters, but that’s not a fix to the root problem.

  • avatar

    After freezing my butt off all winter in the Cincinnati area, it sure is nice to enjoy my heated seats in the Impala going back-and-forth to work!

    I, too, was surprised that you can get heated seats in ANY car with cloth seating areas, but I don’t go searching this stuff out, but I suppose I’ll have to in the future.

    As far as Toyota is concerned, this whole debacle – if that is an accurate term, will pass, especially if no incidents have been reported to our knowledge. In any event, I sure wouldn’t want to be known as the “Man on Fire”!

  • avatar

    “Toyota contacted us regarding the use of the word “fire” in the initial post…”

    Yes, how uncouth. The industry preferred terminology is “thermal incident”.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      Wasn’t Chernobyl also classified as a “thermal incident”?

      • 0 avatar

        A Repo Man moment. I read danio3834’s comment earlier today and I thought to myself, “well shoot, it’s not like TTAC wrote ‘goes off like a thermonuclear device\'”

        Here is your reference to Chernobyl.

        Sometimes you’ll think of plate of shrimp and then out of the blue someone will say shrimp, or plate, or plate of shrimp…

  • avatar

    Noncompliant Combustion Incident

  • avatar

    Another tempest in a tea pot. Doesn’t affect Canada so far, according to this:

    Also, watch “toxic hot seat” by inventor.

  • avatar

    Toyota always mentions how their problems are the result of “a supplier.” Seems to be a frequent problem with them. When other manufacturers have issues, the brand generally takes the hit. It’s the brands responsibility to ensure the suppliers are staying compliant.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t think they’ve been contracting to the lowest bidder for the decade or so? There is a reason they have led the number of recalls the last few years.

    • 0 avatar

      No they don’t, and not only has GM and their fanboys constantly thrown suppliers under the bus, they even tried to throw Toyota under the bus a few years ago when the Cobalt had a recall and the part was supplied by a parts supplier Toyota had a minor stake in. Bob Klutz proudly tried to pin it on Toyota.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh yes they do! The whole SUA thing was blamed on a faulty part supplier as were the mats. They even tried blaming the driver. Both Toyota and Gm are great for passing the blame.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, defective or under engineered gas pedal uncovered here;

  • avatar

    What will happen if driver /or front passenger unknowingly farts on heated fabric seats?

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