4 Million Toyota, Lexus Owners Warned: Remove Floormats Now

Posted: Sep 30, 2009 10:12 a.m.

A series of complaints and at least one deadly accident have lead Toyota to launch the largest automotive recall in the company's history, urging owners of nearly 4 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles to remove the driver's side floormat from their vehicle immediately and not replace it.  The recall affects models dating from 2004 to 2010.  

The floormats, the AP explains, "could cause accelerators to get stuck and lead to a crash." 

The announcement follows a highly-publicized August accident in which a California Highway Patrol officer and several member of his family were killed when a 2009 Lexus ES350 loaned to them by a dealership accelerated without warning, sending the car hurtling into traffic at a reported speed of over 120 mph.  CNN reports, "Toyota said that preliminary information from investigators indicated" that the crash "could have been caused by an all-weather floor mat interfering with the accelerator pedal because of a faulty mat installation".

Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are cooperating to give the issue as much publicity as possible in order to prevent further accidents. But the campaign, at this point, is not a formal recall, since the automaker does not need to perform any work in the car in order to eliminate the danger.

In a press release, the NHTSA explains, "Toyota has announced that it will soon launch a safety recall of various model year vehicles to redress the problem," but until the recall can begin, "The agency strongly recommends taking out removable floor mats on the driver's side in certain models and not to replace them with any other mat, either from Toyota or any other brand."  The agency says that it continues to receive "reports of accelerator pedal clearance issues which provide the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position," which could "result in very high vehicle speeds and a crash, which could cause serious injury or death."

Affected models are:

Several media outlets have pointed out that the floormat involved in the California accident was a rubber all-weather floormat, an option on most cars but one far less common on the road than carpeted floormats.  Autoblog has managed to replicate the problem, and runs a photograph of a Toyota accelerator pedal trapped on the rubber lip of an all-weather floormat. 

We urge readers to remember, however, that Toyota's recall affects all floormats, including all-weather and carpeted models.  Please don't fail to remove your driver's side floormat because it isn't rubber.  Toyota and the NHTSA have asked owners to remove all floormats until further notice.

This isn't the first time Toyota has faced this issue.  The company recalled many Lexus and Toyota models in 2007 over a similar problem, including the Camry and Lexus ES350 included in this campaign.

If you're in the market for a new car, check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars as well as this month's best car deals.