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Uncertainty is Biggest Threat to Toyota

The Toyota logo is displayed on the grill of brand new Toyota RAV4s on the sales lot at City Toyota in Daly City, California.
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The Toyota logo is displayed on the grill of brand new Toyota RAV4s on the sales lot at City Toyota in Daly City, California.

It's a stunning move.

Toyota is suspending sales of roughly 57% of its new cars and shutting down assembly lines for eight models. That alone should spook Toyota investors. But the troubling part of Toyota halting sales of new models is the fact nobody knows how long it will last.

Will it be a week?

A month?

Several months?

Your guess is as good as any other one.

Toyota has essentially said it doesn't know exactly what is causing problems with some of its accelerator pedals. When it announced a recall last week impacting 2.3 million Toyota models, the company said the problem may be the gas pedal wearing down making it tougher to depress and/or slower to spring back when you take your foot off the gas. Unfortunately for Toyota and the millions with these cars and trucks, The company doesn't have a fix for the problem.

It leaves millions of Toyota owners in limbo.

Sure, the vast majority have not experienced any problems with their cars suddenly having unintended acceleration. But many have seen the stories of accidents (some ending with fatalities) that are suspected of being linked to unintended acceleration. How many of those people are now wondering if they'll have problems with sticking gas pedals. As long as there is no solution in place, those questions will linger, and sales will suffer.

This suspension affects 57% of Toyota's sales, including some if its most popular models like the Camry and Corolla. There's no doubt business will suffer. How much is anyone's guess. But the impact could last well beyond the end of sales being suspended. For many people, there is now a major question mark about the safety of some Toyota models.

While Toyota is trying to corral this controversy before it spins out of control, the company will suffer as long s struggles to come up with a solution. Sure, American car buyers may understand why Toyota has stopped selling certain models, but the longer the company goes without a definitive fix for the bigger this problem becomes for the automaker.

Have you experienced any problem with your car suddenly accelerating? Email your story to BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com or share it here in our comments page below.

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