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Toyota Apologizes For Fatal Crash Linked To Floor Mats

Oct 5, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Toyota shocked businesses and consumers with a recent announcement it made regarding the death of a family in a fatal accident that led to a massive vehicle recall. Freep.com reported that the president of Toyota Motor Corporation—Akio Toyoda—who is also the grandson of Toyota’s founder, publicly apologized for the family’s death in a crash that was likely the result of faulty floor mats.

Toyoda said, quoted Freep.com, that Toyota is "grasping for salvation." The recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles is the automaker’s largest in United States history and is being conducted to remove floor mats, said the Detroit Free Press last week. It is believed the floor mats jammed the car’s accelerator, which led to the fatal crash that killed a California family. Lexus is the automaker’s luxury brand.

Last month we reported that Toyota advised its Lexus and Toyota dealers to inspect the installation of floor mats in certain vehicles. The warning was issued following the fatal accident in San Diego, California that involved a Lexus ES 350 sedan. The accident killed a California state trooper and three of his family members.

Speaking in Tokyo, Toyoda said, "Four precious lives have been lost. I can't begin to express my remorse," quoted Freep.com. "We have to listen to our customers and make better cars," he added. Toyota is the largest automaker and Toyoda—53—became president at the carmaker this June, noted Freep.com.

Toyota and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are urging owners of the seven vehicle lines involved—2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma,2007-2010 Tundra, 2007-2010 ES 350, and 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS 350—to immediately remove driver side floor mats, particularly if they are unsecured.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has, to date, received reports of 102 incidents in Toyota vehicles from 2004-09 model years involving floor mats interfering with pedals. One-third of those incidents involved the Lexus ES 350, the Free Press said previously.

This is not be the first time Toyota has recalled vehicles because of a floor mat issue. As we reported previously, in 2007, the automaker recalled 55,000 Camrys and Lexus ES 350s in the U.S., replacing floor mats it said could slip forward and snag the gas pedal, causing uncontrolled acceleration. At the time of the recall, there were some 40 complaints concerning all-weather floor-mats in certain vehicles not being secured and slipping under the acceleration pedal. The problem was implicated in eight crashes that injured 12 people.

According to the Free Press, the NHTSA has opened 11 investigations into sudden acceleration issues at Toyota since 2003.

Last month, Toyota requested a seal on a U.S. lawsuit filed by a former in-house attorney, said Freep.com. The attorney claimed Toyota allegedly crash data; a judge denied the request saying the lawsuit was already “irreversibly public,” reported Freep.com.

Toyota is expected to face record losses of $5 billion this fiscal year, said Freep.com, over and above a $4.4 billion loss from its last fiscal year.


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