Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More problems for Toyota: recall for defects, 2.5 years too late

About a week ago, the news came out that a former high-ranking attorney for Toyota alleged the auto maker conspired to illegally conceal and withhold evidence in cases related to rollover accidents (see here). Then, a few days later, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Toyota, ordering it not to destroy any evidence on the crashworthiness of its vehicles. (see here). Go here for an update on that part of the story. Now there are reports that Toyota has announced a recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles due to problems with the driver’s side floor mats, which can cause the accelerator to stick and result in a loss of vehicle control. Go here for the full story. But wait! There is more: AboutLawsuits.com is reporting today that Toyota knew about potential floor mat problems more than two and a half years before issuing the recall. In fact, according to a report in the New York Times, officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating potential problems with Toyota and Lexus floor mats as early as March 2007, after receiving complaints from Lexus ES 350 owners that their vehicles were suddenly accelerating out of control. However, it wasn't until after a fatal auto accident in August 2009, where 4 people died that NHTSA officials met with Toyota to discuss concerns about continuing complaints of uncontrollable acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Go here for more on this story.


Cris Nolan said...

As an owner of a 2006 Prius, I've known about this problem since - well, 2006. After a few months of wear and tear on the new car, the floor mats began to move around, and the little "hook" that was attached to the floor of the car and went through the hole in the mat to keep it in place came off about as as easy as a button on a pair of jeans. So, what began to happen was the floor mat would keep sliding away from the drivers seat toward the pedals. It never happened all at once - just about a millimeter a day, every time you step into the car.

After a while, the mat began to "bunch up" under the pedals, which you still don't notice, until it actually messes with your ability to function one of the pedals. In my case, I had just pulled out of the driveway of my house, and went to hit the gas, but for some reason the gas pedal was really hard to press down, and so was the brake. Unlike the genius who killed four people, I decided to stop my car, and take a quick look down to see why my gas and brake were almost completely unresponsive. It turns out my floor mat had slowly started curling up and around behind the pedals, and jamming them.

It's interesting because you'd think it would be easily noticeable, but it isn't. Because of the way the area behind the pedals is designed, and the way the mat slowly works its way, up, around, and then begins to curl, everything looks normal - but it you take a closer look, the mats can stop people from being able to push one of the two pedals. Lucky for me, it was the gas pedal when I was trying to accelerate. not the brake when pulling into the garage at home.

Toyota sent me a letter saying I could have the problem fixed at the dealership, but I heard that when you actually pull in to the service area, a lawyer comes out and steals all the floor mats out of your car.

If you dare to ask them how they're planning on fixing the problem, they point to a huge pile of old dirty floor mats in the corner and say, "Problem solved."

Professor Alberto Bernabe said...

Thanks for sharing this story!