NHTSA Pronounces and Toyota Pounces: It’s the Floor Mats, Stupid

Showing admirable restraint, Toyota waited a whole five days before trumpeting the closing of Defect Petition 09-001 as proof positive “that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.”

Trouble in Toyotaville

The last month’s news has generated enough tarnish to all but blot out Toyota’s sterling reputation, built over decades. To recap: Toyota launches largest recall in the company’s history for all-weather floor mats that may entrap the accelerator pedals after four die in a sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) crash in California; the company is under investigation for a severe rust problem with Tundras; former corporate attorney Dimitrios P. Biller, former in-house attorney who accuses the automaker of destroying and concealing evidence in rollover cases, produces four boxes of documents to a court in Texas.

Toyota and NHTSA Issue Urgent Safety Alert to Remove Floor Mats: Will it Stop Sudden Acceleration?

Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have issued urgent consumer safety alerts to owners of a wide range of Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver's floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat.

“Recent events have prompted Toyota to take a closer look at the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat,” Toyota said in a press release.

The advisory follows an August 28 crash in Santee, California that killed four. California Highway Patrolman Mark Saylor was at the wheel of a 2009 Lexus ES350, when the vehicle apparently suffered an sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) event. Some investigators suspect that the floor mat may have entrapped the pedal.

The affected models are:

  • 2007 – 2010 Camry
  • 2005 – 2010 Avalon
  • 2004 – 2009 Prius
  • 2005 – 2010 Tacoma
  • 2007 – 2010 Tundra
  • 2007 – 2010 ES350
  • 2006 – 2010 IS250 and IS350

“Have all-weather floor mats caused unintended acceleration in some Toyota and Lexus models?  Probably.  But is it the only cause in these vehicles?  I don’t think so” says Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies.  “Reviewing complaint data, interviewing owners, and examining evidence from SUA incidents leads us to conclude there is more going on here.  This not likely the last we’ve heard of Toyota and Lexus sudden acceleration.”

Fatal California Crash Highlights Toyota’s Sudden Unintended Acceleration Problem

SANTEE, CALIFORNIA—A horrific sudden unintended acceleration crash that killed four – including a California Highway Patrol officer who was at the wheel of the 2009 Lexus when it plunged over an embankment and burst into flames – may raise the profile of SUA incidents as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration weighs granting a defect petition to re-investigate the problem in Lexus vehicles.

On August 28, Mark Saylor and his wife Cleofe, both 45, their 13-year-old daughter, Mahala, and 38-year-old brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella, were killed after reporting to a 911 operator that they could not stop their Lexus ES 350, as it careened down Route 125. The tape of the brief call, released to the public last week, features the voice of Lastrella, telling the operator that the vehicle had no brakes. The call ended with occupants calling on each other to pray.

Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Sudden Unintended Acceleration can be rooted in a variety of vehicle defects including ergonomic design flaws, mechanical or electro-mechanical failures, or electronic failures.  The article below, republished from Safety Research & Strategies bi-monthly publication, The Safety Record, is an overview of SUA.