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U.S. Criticizes Toyota for "Misleading" Statement on Floormat Recall

Posted: Nov 05, 2009 10:56 a.m.

Federal auto safety regulators have issued a rebuke to Toyota Motor Company for a press release the company issued this week regarding highly publicized reports of a possible unintended acceleration problem in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles. The company recalled nearly 4 million vehicles, with recall letters shipped to owners this week, claiming that the problem occurs only when floormats are not properly secured, or when a vehicle has the wrong floormats installed.

The Los Angeles Times explains, "In formal recall notices being mailed out this week, Toyota asks customers to remove the driver's-side mats. Separately, the company issued a statement Monday saying its recall letter ‘confirms that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver's floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.’" The company also "posted a video statement disputing news reports that unintended acceleration may be related to other factors, such as electronic throttle control systems."

The statement "prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a clarification."

The agency, the AP reports, said that Toyota’s statement "was inaccurate and the government was investigating possible causes of the acceleration problem."

Sean Kane, president of Massachusetts-based Safety Research & Strategies, told the Detroit News that, though the agency hasn’t found a defect beyond the unsecured floormat theory, "it doesn't mean there isn't one. It just means that [NHTSA] hasn't found it."

For Toyota owners, the best advice remains the same: remove the driver’s side floormat from your vehicle and wait for further instructions. The New York Times explains, "The bottom line of all this confusion is this: Unsecured floor mats can jam the accelerator, and consumers have to make sure the mats are placed correctly. But there may also be further problems with the vehicles, and the NHTSA is still investigating. So stay tuned for more announcements and hopefully clearer wording from both parties."

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