Product Liability

Toyota mails recall announcements, but no fix yet

Yesterday I finally received the letter from Toyota announcing the recall of my Tacoma truck and 7 other Toyota and Lexus models manufactured in recent years. Toyota announced last month that it would notify owners of certain models that their vehicles had the potential to accelerate suddenly and unexpectedly. The company has been working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to discover the cause of the problem, develop a solution, and keep consumers informed.

Since the recall was first announced, Toyota has focused on floor mats as the likely culprit. In my Tacoma, the floor mat is secured in the back by two pivoting hooks. You turn the hooks to align with the holes in the mat  and then place the mat over the hooks, adjusting it as necessary. I only remove the floor mat when I clean the vehicle thoroughly, about every other month. I remember I forgot to secure the floor mat once, but I didn’t have any problems with it sliding forward and interfering with the gas and brake pedals.

Curious about my truck’s potential to accelerate unexpectedly, I unfastened the driver’s side mat while the truck was parked and slid it forward to see how it could interfere with the accelerator pedal. I couldn’t visualize this problem occurring in my particular vehicle. I don’t see how the standard floor mat in my truck could jam the gas pedal in an open position, either by catching a part of it or coming to rest on top of it. It’s easier to imagine the problem with a heavier mat, like an optional all-weather floor mat or some rubber that wasn’t designed for the Tacoma specifically.

Still, though, it’s hard to picture the floor mat being responsible for causing some vehicles to speed and crash so violently. I know times are tough for Toyota, but let’s hope the company is 100% certain that floor mats caused all of the unintended acceleration incidents and that fixing the floor mats will prevent sudden acceleration accidents from happening again.

Some Toyota drivers, after all, have reported unintended acceleration events in cars without driver’s side floor mats, and others question why the problem ceases after turning the engine off without repositioning the mat. Whatever the problem, the consequences have been tragic when drivers weren’t able to regain control of the vehicle.

Smart pedal technology seems like it would be a panacea for whatever is causing the unintended acceleration problem, be it floor mats in one model or software problems in another. A smart pedal would disengage the accelerator if it were pressed concurrently with the brakes.

It’s also standard technology in most German vehicles and Chryslers. But the thought of retrofitting 3.8 million vehicles with it could have Toyota scrambling for a less expensive fix.

In the recall announcement, Toyota says that it is “currently developing a campaign remedy and will notify you when it is ready.”

Read the Toyota recall letter.

Other sources: Consumer Affairs