Toyota Floor Mat Safety Recall: My Prius Goes On Notice

November 18, 2009

You're well aware that Toyota is recalling the 2004-2009 Prius--among a list of vehicles--for an issue with floor mats. Here at High Gear Media, we have at least two vehicles affected by the recall, both 2004 Toyota Prius hatchbacks, both even the same shade of blue.

One of them's mine, and in the nearly six years we've owned our Prius, it's been relatively fault-free. Early on, we replaced the navigation screen under warranty. Two accidents cost about $3500 each, though they were parking-lot scrapes--the price of very light wheel spindles, suspension A-arms and lots front-end plastic.

Every car company has recalls, and Toyota is no stranger to them. This recall has some unfortunate related deaths, and it's also been an ongoing, growing recall for a few years. While Toyota says there's no evidence the floor mats are to blame, it's expanding the list of affected vehicles in the hopes of getting ahead of what could be an even worse calamity for families, as well as the company. And in the meantime, while it works on a solution, Toyota's released an interim solution involving zip-tie fasteners, making sure that mats would be held in the proper position.

In the meantime, the company's sent out letters to owners of the affected vehicles, which include:

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

The letter includes the hedge that "this defect does not exist in vehicles in which the driver side floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured," but it does offer advice to all owners of the vehicles in question. Namely, to remove all floor mats from the driver's side until the issue is resolve, and to learn how to shut down their vehicles in case of an accident. We're betting thousands of Prius and Lexus owners never knew that holding down the "Start/Stop" button was the equivalent of a reboot--but now, we do.

So if you're among the 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus owners affected by the recall, but you haven't received a letter, here's mine in text and PDF--with wishes for safe driving:

Toyota Floor Mat Recall, 11/2009

___________________________________

Certain 2004 through 2009 Model Year Prius
Potential Floor Mat Interference with Accelerator Pedal
Safety Recall Campaign (Interim Notice)

Dear Toyota Owner:

This notice is being sent to you in accordance with the requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Toyota has decided that a defect which relates to motor vehicle safety exists in certain 2004 through certain 2009 model year Prius vehicles. The defect is the potential for an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat to interfere with the accelerator pedal and cause it to get stuck in the wide open position. Toyota has determined that this defect does not exist in vehicles in which the driver side floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.

Toyota is currently developing a campaign remedy and will notify you when it is ready. In the meantime, we are providing important information regarding the issue and steps you may take in the interim.

What is the risk?
A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death.

What will Toyota do?
We will notify you again as soon as a campaign remedy is available for your vehicle.

What should you do?
We request that you take out any removable driver's floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat until the campaign remedy is ready and implemented on your vehicle.

In the event you choose not to take out your removable floor mat, Toyota strongly recommends that you ensure that the correct floor mat is being used, that it is properly installed and secured, that it is not flipped over with the bottom-side up, and that one floor mat is not stacked over another. Information on proper floor mat installation for your vehicle is enclosed with this notification. Please visithttp://wwww.toyota.com/floormats for information on other models.

What should you do if you experience accelerator pedal interference?

Should the vehicle continue to accelerate rapidly after releasing the accelerator pedal, this could be an indication of floor mat interference. lf this occurs, Toyota recommends you take the following actions:
First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.

If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do NOT pump the brake pedal repeatedly as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.

Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.

If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.

--If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.

--If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.

What if you have other questions?

Please visit http://www.toyota.com/floormats for further information. Your local Toyota dealer will be more than happy to answer any of your questions as well. If you require further assistance, you may contact the Toyota Customer Experience Center at 1-888-270-9371 Monday through Friday. 5:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday 7:00 am through 4:00 pm Pacific Time.

Toyota will advise you in a separate letter when a campaign remedy is your available for vehicle. After you receive that separate letter, you may submit a complaint to the Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,  1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20590; or call the toll-free 1-888-327-4236 Vehicle Safety Hotline at (TTY: l-800-424-9153) or go to http://www.safercar.gov, if you believe that Toyota has failed or is unable to provide a  remedy without charge or within a reasonable time after the earliest date we advise you in that writing a campaign remedy
is available for your vehicle.

lf you are a vehicle lessor, Federal law requires that any vehicle lessor receiving this recall notice must forward a copy of this  notice to the vehicle lessee within ten days.

We have sent this notice in the interest of your continued satisfaction with our products

Sincerely,
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES, U.S.A., INC.

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