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AutoNation CEO: Fewer Than 5% Of Recalled Toyotas Fixed

By Sharon Terlep Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES ORLANDO -(Dow Jones)- Toyota Motor Co. (TM, 7203.TO) has repaired fewer than 5% of the millions of vehicles it recalled in the U.S., but is making steady progress toward getting the work done, the chief executive of the nation's largest auto retailer said Saturday. AutoNation Inc. (AN), which depends on Toyota for 20% of its revenue, won't lose money as a result of Toyota's woes, CEO Mike Jackson said. Revenue from repairing recalled vehicles is making up for money lost from the company's sales halt, he said. Jackson said Toyota's stumble presents a rare opportunity for rivals Ford Motor Co. (F) and General Motors Co. to convince consumers their vehicles are as reliable than Toyota's. Both Detroit auto makers have made strides in quality of their vehicles, but are widely seen as subpar to Toyota and other Asian rivals in that regard. "Changing perception like that can take decades, but in an event like this you can really change perception from one day to the next," Jackson said, speaking on the sidelines of the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando. "This moment could be the moment GM and Ford stabilize market share. If I were them, I'd be pushing the reliability message hard right now." Jackson said stores that sell Ford, Honda (HMC, 7267.TO), Nissan (NSANY, 7201.TO) and Hyundai (011760.SE) vehicles have seen an increase in traffic since Toyota's troubles began. Toyota in recent months has been forced to recall 8.5 million vehicles globally, most of them in the U.S., because of floor mats and sticking gas pedals that could lead to sudden acceleration and problems with regenerative breaking in its Toyota Prius hybrid. The auto maker temporarily halted sales of more than half its U.S. lineup while it searched for a cause of the acceleration problems. Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have come under scrutiny for their handling of the situation. Jackson said he believes Toyota will regain market share lost because of the stop in sales by this spring. He said the company would welcome any "gesture" from Toyota to help win back customers. He also criticized Toyota's handling of the recall worries, saying a faster, more "self-motivated" approach would have improved the situation. "Toyota has taken that lesson to heart," he said. -By Sharon Terlep, Dow Jones Newswires; 248/204-5532; sharon.terlep@dowjones.com

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