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Toyota Floormat Recall Could Expand

Posted: Oct 01, 2009 10:48 a.m.

If your Toyota wasn't included in the massive floormat recall campaign announced yesterday, don't breathe easy yet. In fact, you may want to remove your driver's side floormat as a precaution, even if you haven't been instructed to. The list of affected vehicles may grow in coming weeks.

Toyota, and its luxury division, Lexus, have asked owners of some models to remove the driver's side floormat from their vehicle for fear that it might trap the accelerator pedal and cause the car to accelerate without warning. The campaign is not yet a formal recall, the Boston Globe explains, but "yesterday's notice was nothing more than a safety advisory." The company is working the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to get the word out that owners of some Toyota vehicles should remove their driver's side floor mat, but Toyota northeast PR manager Wade Hoyt told the Globe that the matter won't be a formal recall "until we've worked out a fix that NHTSA approves."

Before that happens, however, the recall may expand to include more Toyota and Lexus models.

Kicking Tires explains, "We had a 2010 Toyota Prius in our test fleet this week and noted its floormat set-up is similar to Toyotas included in the recall. The 2010 Prius is not included in the current recall, but the 2005-2009 Prius is." Concerned, KT reviewers contacted Toyota. Toyota spokesman John Hanson told them that "the 2010 model uses the same type of floormats as the older Prius, as do many other current Toyota models not included in the recall." The 2010 Prius was left out of the recall, he said, "because there have been no specific complaints filed with either Toyota or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the floormats...However, when the recall is finalized, which could be as early as next week, the 2010 Prius may be included."

If Toyota is waiting until specific complaints emerge before including a particular model in the recall, then the list of affected models could continue to grow for some time. Now that the issue has received so much publicity, owners are certain to be on the lookout for floormat-related problems with most Toyota and Lexus cars, and it seems reasonable to assume that more complaints lie ahead.

The company faced a similar issue in 2007. It responded, that time, with a recall of certain Camry and Lexus ES350 models. Autoblog noted at the time, however, that while the formal recall covered just those two cars, the NHTSA also warned "Toyota Prius, Avalon, RAV4 and Tacoma owners to check and make sure their floor mats [were] properly secured."

The company is working on a solution to the problem that goes beyond a simple floormat redesign. Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons told the New York Times that the company is exploring solutions that would allow the driver to easily overcome any problem that caused unintended acceleration. "It is conceivable we could develop software so that if the gas pedal and brake pedal were hit at the same time, the brake pedal wins," he told the Times. A software change would have the additional advantage of being inexpensive and quick for dealers to perform. Lyons added, "We have several ideas in mind."

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