The Transportation Department is formally demanding documents related to Toyota's massive recalls in the United States to find out if the automaker conducted three of its recalls in a timely manner.
The legal documents were delivered to Toyota on Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press. The documents demand that the company tell the government when and how Toyota learned of the safety defects in millions of vehicles.
Investigators are looking into whether Toyota discovered the problems during pre-production or post-production of the affected vehicles.
Consumer groups have criticized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for not forcefully regulating the auto industry and limiting its use of fines and failing to seek detailed information from car companies.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Toyota said Tuesday it plans to idle production temporarily at assembly plants in Texas and Kentucky while it grapples with massive recalls in the United States.
Toyota spokesman Mike Goss said a plant in San Antonio, Texas, has scheduled production breaks for the weeks of March 15 and April 12. A plant in Georgetown, Ky., has scheduled a non-production day on Feb. 26 and may not produce vehicles on three more days in March and April, Goss said.
Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally during the past four months because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats and brakes, threatening to undermine the safety and quality reputation of the world's No. 1 automaker.
Goss confirmed the decision was connected to the recalls. He said workers at the plants will be retained and paid during the production suspensions and will receive additional training.
The Kentucky plant builds the Camry, Avalon and Venza for Toyota. The Texas plant manufactures the Tundra pickup truck.
Toyota temporarily suspended sales of vehicles like Camry and Corolla in late January after it issued a recall of millions of vehicles over problems with potentially sticky gas pedals. The stop sale was meant to give the automaker time to come up with a fix.
Dealers began selling affected vehicles again after about five days when Toyota announced a repair that it said would solve the problem. But the lost sales days meant many were left with higher numbers of unsold cars.
Goss said the automaker wants to ensure dealers don't build up excessive inventories as they try to clear to through the cars still on their lots.
"Our dealers are busy trying to sell those vehicles, but we can't let inventory back up on top of that," he said.
Toyota has been fixing vehicles under recall. Toyota Vice President Bob Carter told reporters at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Fla., on Monday that the company had repaired about 500,000 of the 2.3 million vehicles recalled over a potentially sticky gas pedal.
Toyota said its president, Akio Toyoda, on Wednesday will answer more questions in Japan on the beleaguered company's recalls. Toyoda will give updates on the global recall of some 400,000 Prius gas-electric hybrids at the Tokyo news conference, the company said Tuesday.
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