WASHINGTON (Nov. 5, 2009)—Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is wrong when it says approved, properly secured floor mats will solve all accelerator problems on 3.8 million recalled Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
NHTSA took the unusual step of contradicting an auto maker regarding a recall notice after Toyota issued a Nov. 2 press release about the notification letter it had sent to owners of the affected vehicles. In the letter, Toyota warned that unsecured or incompatible floor mats can cause the accelerators in those vehicles to stick open, with a potential for causing high-speed accidents.
“The letter, in compliance with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and reviewed by (NHTSA), also confirms that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver's floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured,” Toyota said in the press release.
In its own press release two days later, NHTSA said the Toyota release was inaccurate.
“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,” the agency said. “But it is simply an interim measure.
“This remedy does not correct the underlying defect in the vehicles involving the potential for entrapment of the accelerator by floor mats, which is related to accelerator and floor pan design,” NHTSA said. “This matter is not closed until Toyota has effectively addressed the defect by providing a suitable vehicle-based solution.”
Responding to NHTSA's statement, Toyota said it never intended to mislead customers.
“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,” the Torrance, Calif.-based auto company said. “We are in the process of developing vehicle-based remedies to help avoid the potential for an unsecured or incompatible floor mat to trap the accelerator pedal.”
Toyota issued the voluntary recall Sept. 29, the same day NHTSA issued a Consumer Alert about the dangers of stuck-open accelerators in the Toyota and Lexus vehicles.