Toyota Recall: Toyota answers Pundits accusations of Floormat Cover Up

By Joel Arellano | November 09, 2009
Toyota takes analysts and pundits on so-called "accelerations" of some of its vehicles as per this post. Recently, there has been some controversy regarding a safety recall that Toyota is undertaking. We want to take this opportunity to set the record straight with a chronology of the events of the past week. On Friday, October 30, we began sending letters to Toyota owners and Lexus owners about a defect related to motor vehicle safety that exists on certain models. 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. As an interim precaution, we asked owners to take out any removable driver’s floor mat and not replace it with any other floor mat until a vehicle-based remedy can be developed and implemented on their vehicle. When such a remedy is determined, owners will be notified. In addition, the letter contains instructions for owners on what to do should they experience accelerator pedal interference.
On Monday, November 2, Toyota distributed a press release announcing the customer letter campaign and cited a recent decision by NHTSA related to unintended acceleration on a Lexus vehicle. On Tuesday and Wednesday, a series of media reports circulated, stating that there was growing suspicion by some Toyota and Lexus owners, that a glitch of some kind in the electronic engine management system was the cause of reports of unintended acceleration. There were also reports in the media that Toyota’s press release implied that the company believed the only issue was the removal of floor mats and that its future recall would not involve any other remedies. First, the question of unintended acceleration involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles has been one of the most thoroughly and repeatedly investigated issues by Toyota, as well as by the engineering experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Six times in the past six years NHTSA has undertaken an exhaustive review of allegations of unintended acceleration on Toyota and Lexus vehicles and six times the agency closed the investigation without finding any electronic engine control system malfunction to be the cause of unintended acceleration. Just last week NHTSA denied a request for an additional investigation of unwanted and unintended acceleration of model year 2007 Lexus ES350 vehicles and model years 2002-2003 Lexus ES300. After conducting an extensive technical review of the issue, including interviews with consumers who had complained of unwanted acceleration, NHTSA concluded that “…the only defect trend related to vehicle speed control in the subject vehicles involved the potential for accelerator pedals to become trapped near the floor by out-of-position or inappropriate floor mat installations." (click here for ODI report) Finally, on Wednesday of this week, NHTSA issued a statement that read in part that “ A press release put out by Toyota earlier this week about their recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles inaccurately stated NHTSA had reached a conclusion that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured. NHTSA has told Toyota and consumers that removing the recalled floor mats is the most immediate way to address the safety risk and avoid the possibility of the accelerator becoming stuck. But it is simply an interim measure.” It was never Toyota’s intention to mislead or provide inaccurate information and we regret any confusion our press release may have caused with the media and with the public. Toyota agrees with NHTSA’s position that the removal of the floor mats is an interim measure and that further vehicle-based action is required. We are in the process of developing appropriate vehicle-based remedies that will help prevent accelerator pedal entrapment. In the meantime we will continue to keep you updated on the floor mat situation as more information becomes available.
Irv Miller Group Vice President, Environmental and Public Affairs Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
Press release via Toyota