One week ago today, owners of eight Toyota and Lexus models got an urgent plea from the U.S. Department of Transportation, delivered via the media: Remove your driver's side floor mat immediately, and don't replace it until you've taken your car to the dealer.
With much of the coverage calling it a recall of 3.8 million vehicles, Toyota issued a cautious statement the next day saying that it wasn't yet a recall but a "safety advisory."
Well, it's a recall now.
The company will send letters to customers before the end of the month--and it left open the possibility that the list vehicles being recalled might expand beyond those already identified.
Toyota told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it's "willing to identify this campaign as a safety recall," and is working on a "vehicle fix" to prevent the possibility of loose or oversize floormats interfering with the accelerator or brake pedals.
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)
Three weeks ago, Toyota had ordered its dealers to inspect all new, used, and fleet vehicles for mismatched floor mats after a fatal crash in late August. In that accident, four occupants died when a 2009 Lexus ES crashed, rolled over, and burned in Santee, California.
A passenger in the car who called 911 during the event said the car had a stuck accelerator pedal and non-functioning brakes. Accessory floor mats fitted by a dealer that were too large for that vehicle are suspected as a cause of the accident.
On Thursday, new Toyota president Akio Toyoda formally expressed deep regret at the deaths during a grim news conference in which he painted Toyota as a company on the brink of irrelevance and perhaps even insolvency.
Toyota and Lexus owners can get more information from the NHTSA's Hotline at (888) 327-4236. Toyota owners can contact the company's Experience Center at (800) 331-4331; Lexus owners can reach the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at (800) 255-3987.
Toyota's diagram showing how to properly install floor mats