The value of heated seats is difficult to underestimate, especially for those of us in northern states. However, warm-bottomed drivers of certain Toyota models built since August 2012 may have gotten slightly more than they bargained for when they opted for heated seats in their Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Corolla, Sienna, Tacoma, and Tundra models.
Due to a cloth pad on the seat-heater assembly that was not up to snuff, according to federal regulations, Toyota has stopped sales of certain vehicles equipped with heated seats. Toyota spokesman John Hanson told us today that the issue came to Toyota’s attention when a South Korean safety review found that the seat-heating material in question did not meet the minimum rate at which it is supposed to retard flames. Toyota changed suppliers in 2012, so the issue only affects models built since August of that year.
No reports of fires or accidents have surfaced in relation to the issue, which could result in a recall depending on how the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) rules in the case. Hanson says that Toyota has submitted a petition to NHTSA in hopes of determining that the non-compliant material is inconsequential, which if granted, would mean existing vehicles would not need to be retrofitted with any new parts.
The number of affected vehicles currently out on the road is as yet undetermined, but for affected vehicles currently in dealer inventory, Toyota is in the process of preparing a modification which should bring the seats in line with federal regulations. If necessary, owners will be able to have the modified seat heater assembly replaced at a Toyota dealership at no cost.