UPDATE: Toyota spokesperson Wade Hoyt said on Wednesday, September 30: Despite widespread reporting to the contrary, this is not yet a recall, but a safety advisory to owners of affected models. Our engineers are working with the NHTSA on a potential fix beyond the retention hooks that are already in the vehicles.
A company statement added: Toyota considers this a critical matter and will soon launch a safety campaign on specific Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Throughout the process of developing the details of the action plan, it will advise the NHTSA. Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of specific Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver’s floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat.
ORIGINAL: We've all likely dealt with a floor mat that doesn't want to stay put at one time or another, but few pose a serious danger to occupants. That's apparently not the case with a range of Toyota and Lexus floor mats, however, as the Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a warning to owners of affected vehicles to immediately remove their driver's-side floor mats and not replace them due to a possible interference with the accelerator pedal. Toyota is expected to issue a large-scale recall later today.
The Lexus vehicles affected include the 2007-2010 Lexus ES 350 and the 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250 and 350. Other Toyota vehicles within the scope of the warning include: the 2007-2010 Camry, 2005-2010 Avalon, 2004-2009 Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, and the 2007-2010 Tundra, according to an AP report. As many as 3.8 million vehicles may be affected.
Toyota's diagram showing how to properly install floor mats
The floor mat issue appears to have been fairly long-standing for Toyota, with a previous recall of floor mats that could trap the gas pedal in 2007. A fatal crash involving a family of four in a 2009 Lexus ES 350 last month near Los Angeles is believed to have been the impetus for the latest recall.
As Toyota put it in its official statement, "Recent events have prompted Toyota to take a closer look at the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat. A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death."
It's not clear if the floor mats now at issue are the same or similar to those recalled in 2007, but the latest warning from the DOT overlaps the models recalled in 2007, which covered 2007 and 2008 model-year Lexus ES 350s and Toyota Camrys.
Toyota advises the following course of action if you think your car may have the problem:
Should the vehicle continue to accelerate rapidly after releasing the accelerator pedal, this could be an indication of floor mat interference. If this occurs, Toyota recommends the driver take the following actions:
First, if it is possible and safe to do so, pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator pedal; then pull over and stop the vehicle.
If the floor mat cannot be dislodged, then firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet. Do NOT pump the brake pedal repeatedly as this will increase the effort required to slow the vehicle.
Shift the transmission gear selector to the Neutral (N) position and use the brakes to make a controlled stop at the side of the road and turn off the engine.
If unable to put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. This will not cause loss of steering or braking control, but the power assist to these systems will be lost.
-If the vehicle is equipped with an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds to turn off the engine. Do NOT tap the Engine Start/Stop button.
-If the vehicle is equipped with a conventional key-ignition, turn the ignition key to the ACC position to turn off the engine. Do NOT remove the key from the ignition as this will lock the steering wheel.
In the event owners choose not to remove their floor mat, Toyota strongly recommends that they ensure that the correct floor mat is being used, that it is properly installed and secured, that it is not flipped over with bottom-side up, and that one floor mat is not stacked over another. Information on proper floor mat installation can be found on http://www.toyota.com.
Owners with questions or concerns, are asked to please contact the Toyota Customer Experience Center (1 800 331-4331) or consult the information posted at http://www.toyota.com
For more on this story, check out John Voelcker's article on the recall at TheCarConnection.