In September of this year, Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles, their largest recall ever, because of some reported incidents over unwanted acceleration. There were claims that the accelerator pedal became stuck and had made it difficult to use the brake.
This started in August, when there was an incident where a Lexus went out of control, exceeding 120 mph on a California highway. A Highway Patrol Officer, one Mark Saylor, was driving the Lexus while off-duty, and the car accident killed him and three members of his family. At that time, a Toyota spokesman advised drivers to remove their driver’s side floor mat. If it was not properly secured in place, it could interfere with the pedal.
After the news media gave that incident a lot of exposure, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) received 102 more such reports, although not all of them proved to have any foundation. Toyota claimed that the problem was with floor mats not meant to be used in the vehicles or not correctly positioned. Saylor was not driving his own Lexus; he had a loaner car from the dealer while his was being repaired. Toyota has now indicated that the dealer installed the floor mats incorrectly in the loaner car.
Investigation Findings Mixed
After the original incident was investigated, the NHTSA report disclosed that the Lexus brakes were badly damaged, supporting previous NHTSA findings that when the Lexus ES throttle is fully open, the brake system loses power-assist. That multiplies the braking distance by five. A new NHTSA report states that the Lexus accelerator pedal design may be at fault, contributing to the floor mat problem.
Toyota’s recall letter to the public said in part:
- “… no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.”
Yesterday the NHTSA claimed that Toyota was issuing “inaccurate and misleading” statements about there being no defect in the recalled vehicles other than the floor mat issue.
- “This matter is not closed until Toyota has effectively addressed the defect by providing a suitable vehicle-based solution.”
In other words, something is needed besides a correct floor mat. Toyota responded by saying in part that it was “never our intention to mislead or provide inaccurate information” and that it was working on “vehicle-based” remedies.
Of the eight investigations made so far by the NHTSA of unwanted Toyota acceleration, two involved carpet panels or floor mats and led to small recalls. The other six were closed with no defects found.
Perhaps news reports are distorting this whole issue or some people are making false reports. If you drive a Toyota, it would be a good idea to check the floor mats and that may be all that is required. However, if Toyota is indeed selling defective vehicles, they will be required to correct the problems.