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Crash That Triggered Toyota Floormat Recall Proves Complicated

Posted: Oct 27, 2009 09:57 a.m.

The high-profile crash that killed four people and launched a recall of four million Toyota and Lexus products has proved to be more complicated than investigators originally believed.  Toyota is going ahead with a massive recall campaign in which nearly four million Toyota owners have been asked to remove their driver's side floormat, but federal investigators now believe the vehicle involved in the crash may not have had the correct floormats installed. 

The Los Angeles Times reports, "The report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration draws no conclusions about the cause of the Aug. 28 accident, but discloses new details, including the fact that the brakes were heavily damaged."  A dealership had loaned the car, a Lexus ES350, to a family whose car was being repaired.  Investigators believe the floormats in the car were not properly installed.

They may not have even been the correct floormats for the vehicle.  Autoblog reports, "The mats in the ES350 that crashed were from an RX400h."  They were rubber, all-weather floormats, and "because the dealer had placed the wrong mats into the wrong car, there was no way to properly mount them."

The ES350's brakes have also been the subject of another safety investigation.  Autoblog notes, "The NHTSA had also learned from a previous ES350 investigation that, ‘the Lexus ES braking system loses power-assist when the throttle is fully opened, increasing braking distance fivefold.'"

The investigators' report still indicates that the design of the floormats and accelerator pedal in some Toyota and Lexus products could contribute to a crash.  Motor Trend notes, "While the NHTSA report doesn't implicate an exact reason for the crash, it points to the Lexus' gas pedal design."  At reads, in part, "Beyond the main pivot, the lever is not hinged and has no means for relieving forces caused by interferences."

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