Toyota Officially Launches RecallOct 6, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Toyota Motor Corp. has officially recalled nearly four million of its vehicles. The recall, said Detroit News, is being issued following a number of accidents and serious incidents—one involving the deaths of a California state trooper and three members of his family—over allegedly faulty floor mats. This is the second time since 2007 that Toyota has issued a recall over floor mats.
Including the California fatalities, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) received 100 complaints that involve 17 crashes and five deaths, said Detroit News. One-third of those incidents involved the Lexus ES 350, the Free Press said previously. But, Toyota argues it "has not determined that the vehicles ... contain a safety-related defect," quoted Detroit News, but agreed to initiate its largest United States recall saying it was "willing to identify this campaign as a safety recall," according to a quote from a letter the car giant wrote to the NHTSA.
The recall was made official following Akio Toyoda’s—Toyota’s recently placed president—abject apologies and seemingly heartfelt and emotional condolences last week. "Four precious lives have been lost. I offer my deepest condolences…. Customers bought our cars because they thought they were the safest. But now we have given them cause for grave concern. I can't begin to express my remorse," quoted Detroit News citing press reports from Toyoda’s announcement late last week. Just last week. the United States government issued a so-called “urgent” warning to consumers to remove the driver floor mats in certain vehicles, over safety issues in which the mats could jam and result in the accelerator pedal to remain open and cause a car to speed uncontrollably.
The fatal crash involved off-duty highway patrol officer Mark Saylor (45); his wife, Cleofe (45); Mahala, their 13-year-old daughter; and Chris Lastrella (38), their brother-in-law; all four family members perished, said Detroit News. Details of the chilling accident that prompted the NHTSA to investigate the crash include the 2009 Lexus plummeting over an embankment and bursting into flames. The family was able to contact a 911 operator, saying they were unable to stop the ES 350; Lastrella advised the operator that the Lexus had no brakes. Most poignantly, the 911 tape, just made public, included the family asking one another to pray at the recording’s end, just before their deaths, said Detroit News.
The recall announced today includes 2007-2010 model year Toyota Camry, 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon, 2004-2009 Toyota Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and 2006-2010 Lexus IS250/IS350.
Toyota spokesman, Brian Lyons, said the car maker is not planning on replacing the floor mats, but will make a “vehicle fix,” reported Detroit News. The fix could entail replacing the accelerator pedal or some other amendment to remove the chance of the mat jamming under the pedal, said Detroit News. Whatever the fix, Toyota is not certain when it will be in place. Lyons said, "It will not just be the floor mat," reported Detroit News. Lyons would not provide details, but said “engineering teams” in Japan and North America are involved.
The NHTSA said that issues related to the accidents involve unsecured mats, “accelerator pedal configuration” and some keyless ignition vehicle shut-off procedures, said the Detroit News.
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 that time, the problem was implicated in eight crashes that injured 12 people.
Had Toyota not agreed to the recall, the agency would have opened its own investigation.