The Federal Department of Transportation has issued an "urgent" warning to owners of several Toyota and Lexus models, strongly advising them to remove the floor mats on the driver's side to prevent the accelerator pedal from sticking.
Issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the advisory notice urges that drivers not replace the mats with anything else. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the recall “an urgent matter.”
Two weeks ago, the company ordered dealers to inspect all cars for mismatched floor mats after a fatal crash in late August, in which an occupant of a runaway 2009 Lexus ES called 911 to report a stuck accelerator pedal and non-functioning brakes.
Four occupants died when that car subsequently crashed, rolled over, and burned. The cause of that crash was suspected to be an accessory floor mats fitted at the dealership that were too large for the vehicle.
Toyota has reportedly agreed to recall up to 3.8 million vehicles to check for the problem; it will be the biggest recall in the company's history. The vehicles affected are:
- 2007-2010 Toyota Camry (sedan)
- 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon (sedan)
- 2004-2009 Toyota Prius (hatchback)
- 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma (pickup truck)
- 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra (pickup truck)
- 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 (sedan)
- 2006-2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350 (sedan)
[UPDATE: On Wednesday, September 30, Toyota spokesperson Wade Hoyt distributed the following notice: Despite widespread reporting to the contrary, this is not yet a recall, but a safety advisory to owners of affected models. Our engineers are working with NHTSA on a potential fix beyond the retention hooks that are already in the vehicles.
A statement from the company added: Toyota considers this a critical matter and will soon launch a safety campaign on specific Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Throughout the process of developing the details of the action plan, it will advise the NHTSA. Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of specific Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver’s floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat.]
Toyota has already conducted one recall for a similar problem, but limited to an accessory all-weather floor mat fitted to the 2007 and 2008 Lexus ES 350 and Toyota Camry. The new list of cars is far more comprehensive.
“For everyone’s sake," LaHood said, "we strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Hotline is (888) 327-4236. Toyota owners can reach the company's Experience Center at (800) 331-4331; Lexus owners can contact the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at (800) 255-3987.
We'll bring you more information as we get it.