Product Liability

Toyota Motor Corp. announces massive recall

Toyota Motor Corp. announced it would recall 3.8 million vehicles in the U.S. in response to reports of sudden and unexpected acceleration in several car and truck models. Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believe that removable floor mats are responsible for the runaway acceleration. The mats can shift and interfere with the gas pedal, causing the vehicle to race forward.

The recall was prompted by the tragic death of four family members in San Diego County, California late last month. Mark Saylor, a 45-year-old California Highway Patrol officer was driving along state route 125 in the town of Santee with his wife Cleofe, 45, their daughter Mahala, 13, and Saylor’s brother-in-law Chris Lastrella, 38 when the vehicle, a 2009 Lexus ES 350, accelerated to over 120 mph. Saylor managed to call 911 about a minute before the vehicle crashed to report that the vehicle was accelerating uncontrollably and the brakes weren’t working.

According to a report in the Miami Herald, the 911 call picked up the voice of one of the passengers telling the others to hold on and pray, followed by a woman’s scream. The call then ended.

The vehicle sailed off an embankment and rolled over several times before bursting into flames. Investigators discovered that the floor mat in the Lexus, which was loaned to Saylor by a dealership while his car was being serviced, didn’t belong to that model Lexus. They theorize that the mat, which was two inches longer than the proper mat, could have interfered with the accelerator.

Many Toyota Prius drivers are skeptical that floor mats cause the sudden acceleration, at least in their vehicles.

A California woman identified as Karen told ConsumerAffairs.com that she experienced sudden acceleration in her 2007 Prius twice. When she reported the problem to her dealer, she “listened as the service manager blamed everything that occurred on nothing more than a carpet jamming the accelerator pedal,” according to a report on the ConsumerAffairs website. However, Karen’s Prius didn’t have floor mats when the incident first happened.

In 2007, Toyota recalled its Camry and Lexus ES 350 models after receiving reports that the heavy floor mats became jammed under the accelerator pedal, causing the vehicle to accelerate suddenly. The NHTSA, however, said that the recall failed to fix the problem because the agency continued to receive reports of unexpected acceleration after the recall.

Whatever the cause, the NHTSA warned drivers of all affected models to remove the floor mats immediately and drive without them until that can be replaced. The recall covers the following Toyotas:

• 2007-2010 Camry
• 2005-2010 Avalon
• 2004-2009 Prius
• 2005-2010 Tacoma
• 2007-2010 Tundra
• 2007-2010 Lexus ES 350
• 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250 and IS350