Toyota Motor Corp. said it would recall 3.8 million vehicles sold in the United States as it attempts to resolve concerns that floor mats in those cars and trucks could cause their gas pedals to become stuck, leading to uncontrollable acceleration.
The recall, affecting eight Toyota and Lexus brand models, will be the largest in the Japanese carmaker’s history. The models include 2007-2010 Toyota Camrys and 2004-2009 Toyota Priuses.
Last month, a San Diego man and three passengers were killed in a high-speed crash that the driver, in a call to 911 prior to the accident, said was being caused by a floor mat wedged into the accelerator.
Toyota said it had been receiving complaints from consumers about uncontrollable acceleration because of floor mat entrapment dating to 2004, but was moved to act in part because of the San Diego accident and the publicity it has received.
“Obviously, the tragic accident in San Diego was certainly an eye opener for us,” said Irv Miller, a Toyota spokesman. “We’re trying to raise floor mat awareness.”
Toyota said it has been in active discussions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the past week to 10 days on the matter and that it developed the current consumer advisory in consultation with the agency.
“This is an urgent matter,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who oversees the safety agency. “For everyone’s sake, we strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration.”
The automaker said it has engineers working on fixing the problem and, once it is resolved, the company will issue the recall notice to owners and cover any costs involved in repairs or replacement of floor mats.
In the meantime, Toyota is asking owners of the eight models to remove their driver-side floor mats. If they choose not to, they should at least confirm that they have the correct factory floor mats in the vehicle and that they are properly installed, a spokesman said.
The automaker said that it had received numerous complaints about floor mat-related acceleration problems in the past, but said it did not have data on the number of accidents or deaths they may have caused.
The automaker added, however, that the floor mat problem – caused when the mat slides over the accelerator pedal, preventing it from returning to normal position when the driver’s foot is removed – is not limited to Toyota.
“Floor mats are an industry issue and have been for a long time,” Miller said.
Toyota recommended a series of measures that can be taken in the event that a floor mat does jam the pedal.
If possible, Toyota said, a driver who is experiencing unintended acceleration should try to dislodge the floor mat from the gas pedal and then pull over and stop the vehicle.
If the floor mat can’t be dislodged, the driver should shift the car into neutral and press the brake pedal down firmly with both feet. Toyota said that its brakes are designed to be able to bring vehicles to a full stop, even when the motor is at full throttle.
If that doesn’t work, the driver should shut off the engine by turning the key to the “ACC” position. The driver shouldn’t remove the key because that action will lock the steering wheel.
In vehicles equipped with an engine start-stop button instead of an ignition key, the driver must depress the button continuously for three seconds to turn off the engine. Do not tap the button, the automaker warned.