Dangerous Products: December 2009 Archives

December 11, 2009

Florida Vehicle Alert: Toyota Issues Massive Defect Recall

Toyota has recently announced a recall of several models of both Toyota and Lexus vehicles that is estimated to affect some 4.26 million vehicles throughout the United States and Canada. The recall comes because of complaints that the gas pedal in these vehicles can become stuck in the depressed position causing uncontrolled acceleration.  According to reports, this "pedal entrapment" has been blamed for the deaths of 19 people since the 2002 model year.  The problem was initially thought to be caused by mispositioned floor mats, but the recall goes beyond floor mats and addresses design issues of the gas pedals, floor board, and computer system.

The initial recall of potentially defective Toyota and Lexus vehicles began in September when Toyota warned that owners of specific models should immediately remove the floor mats to help prevent unanticipated acceleration from pedal entrapment.  This most recent recall includes Toyota technicians physically modifying the gas pedal to reduce the length by three-quarters of an inch, replacing genuine Toyota or Lexus all-weather floor mats, and installing a brake override system that will cut engine power when both the accelerator and the brake are pressed at the same time.  Some vehicles will also have the padding beneath the gas pedal replaced with a thinner pad to increase clearance between the pedal and the floorboard.

The latest rounds of repairs are scheduled to begin January 2010 and are estimated to exceed $250 million in parts and labor.  The potentially defective pedals that are modified during this time are anticipated to be replaced by properly manufactured parts when they become available.  The brake override system, which is often referred to as "smart pedal" technology and utilized by other auto manufacturers, is scheduled to be implemented as standard equipment on all Toyota and Lexus vehicles manufactured after January 2010.

Although Toyota seems to deny that an actual defect exists in the affected vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a statement to correct what it described as "inaccurate and misleading information" being propagated by Toyota.  The NHTSA stated that removing the floor mats in these potentially dangerous vehicles was only an interim measure and did not correct the underlying defect in the vehicle which causes pedal entrapment.  The NHTSA assured consumers that it would continue to investigate the issue until the defect is corrected with a vehicle-based solution.

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