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Toyota To Fix 2001-2003 RAV4 Transmissions

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2001 Toyota RAV 4

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DETROIT, July 14, 2010; Bernie Woodall and Soyoung Kim writing for Reuters reported that Toyota Motor Corp will extend warranty terms on about 235,500 RAV4 vehicles sold earlier this decade and pay for repairs to fix faulty engine control modules, according to a notice sent to U.S. dealers.

Drivers of 2001 to 2003 model year RAV4s equipped with automatic transaxles may experience a "harsh shift" or have a dashboard light turn on indicating a malfunction, Toyota said in the notice.

Owners of vehicles covered by the campaign will be sent a letter this month advising them to bring their vehicle dealer to be examined if they have experienced the problem.

Toyota will pay for repairs and extend warranties of the affected RAV4s, the note sent to dealers said.

The notice of the vehicle repair campaign was sent to Toyota's U.S. dealers on Monday. A copy of the Toyota "Customer Support Program" was obtained by Reuters.

A Toyota spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Major automakers often extend warranty terms or notify dealers that they will pay for repairs on conditions that they judge to be unrelated to the kinds of safety issues covered by recalls.

Toyota's RAV4 repair campaign comes after a series of high-profile recalls that have damaged the automaker's reputation for quality. More than 10 million Toyota and Lexus models have been recalled since last fall worldwide.

Toyota said that solder in one of the circuits on the RAV4's engine control module is at risk for peeling over time.

In most cases, dealers would be able to fix any vehicle problems by replacing the engine control module, an onboard computer, Toyota said.

In some cases, dealers will also have to replace the automatic transaxle on affected RAV4s, Toyota said.

Hundreds of U.S. consumer complaints have been filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about transmission-related problems with the RAV4.

In some cases, drivers have complained of repair bills of several thousand dollars or sluggish acceleration that put them in dangerous situations.

One driver of a 2002 RAV4 told U.S. regulators that in March 2007 he was involved in a minor accident after the "automatic transmission went crazy and (the) car started lunging forward and then not going when it should."

"We have not felt safe enough to even keep the car on the road," the consumer told NHTSA.

No other Toyota, Lexus or Scion models are impacted by the issue, Toyota said in its notice to dealers.

RAV4 owners who have already paid for repairs can apply to be reimbursed, Toyota said. New repairs must be made at Toyota dealerships.

Editing for Reuters by Leslie Gevirtz