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Steven J. Klearman
Steven J. Klearman
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Toyota and Lexus floor mats causing unintended acceleration

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On September 29, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration alerted consumers about Toyota and Lexus vehicles experiencing unintended acceleration due to the accelerator becoming stuck.

According to the NHTSA press release, floor mats in certain Toyota and Lexus models have caused the accelerator pedal to catch, causing rapid acceleration after releasing the pedal.

Toyota began mailing letters to owners of potentially affected vehicles. For the time being, NHTSA and Toyota urge vehicle owners to take out any removable floor mats. The mats should not be replaced with any other mat.

Toyota and Lexus vehicles affected by this consumer alert are:

  • 2007-2010 Camry
  • 2005-2010 Avalon
  • 2004-2009 Prius
  • 2005-2010 Tacoma
  • 2007-2010 Tundra
  • 2007-2010 ES 350
  • 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS350

Kurt Niland, of Beasley Allen Legal News offers more information on the recall and Toyota’s remedial measures:

The recall is the largest ever for Toyota and the fifth largest recall of a consumer product in the United States.

Toyota formally notified the NHTSA of the recall in a letter on October 5. Owners of the recalled vehicles, which include eight Toyota models manufactured in the last six years, are being notified by first-class mail in a mailing that was sent out on Friday, October 30th.

This first mailing will alert owners to the potential dangers posed by the floor mats but will not announce a fix. When Toyota decides on a solution, it will contact owners about the availability of a free remedy in a second mailing.

Some early reports indicated that rather than focusing on the floor mats, Toyota was researching on-vehicle countermeasures such as a "smart pedal" that would tell the vehicle to ignore the gas pedal if the brakes were applied simultaneously. Such a measure, which is standard in most German-made vehicles and Chryslers, would enable drivers to regain control of their vehicles easily and instantly despite the cause of unintended acceleration.

However, retrofitting 3.8 million vehicles with smart pedal technology would be extremely costly. A modification to the pedal in the affected vehicles would cost as much as $440 million, according to a Tokyo Shimbun report cited by Reuters.

A recall involving redesigned floor mats, on the other hand, would cost about $100 million. New reports say that the latest Toyota recall will indeed be a floor mat fix of some kind.

Toyota’s largest recall comes during its toughest financial time. The company expects to lose $4.7 billion for the year ending March 31 — its second consecutive annual loss. The economic downturn and a poor exchange rate are obvious culprits, but according to Toyota President Akio Toyoda, the troubles run even deeper.

"Toyota has become too big and distant from its customers," President Akio Toyoda, he told journalists in Tokyo last month. "We are grasping for salvation," he added, after apologizing for an accident that occurred in San Diego last August, which investigators say was caused when a floor mat jammed the accelerator pedal in a Lexus ES 350. The horrific accident claimed the lives of a California Highway Patrol officer and three of his family members, finally prompting the massive recall.