Consumer Law

Toyota Recalls Millions of Vehicles

Next to a new home, buying a new or used car is usually one of the biggest purchases for a US consumer. It's a big deal for most of us. Not only because of the money involved, but also because of the stress and worry. Many of us hold onto our cars for many years, so we want to make sure that we're making the right choices when it comes to manufacturer, make, and model. You want things to go smoothly and to stay that way, plain and simple.

However, sometimes there's a problem with the car, and sometimes it pops up years after you bought it. The recent recall of millions of Toyotas sold in the US is a good example.

The Recall

The problem is with floor mats that were installed in models of Toyota cars and trucks. The floor mats may move, or they simply don't fit properly. According to Toyota, there's a chance that such a floor mat cause a gas pedal to get stuck open, causing the vehicle to accelerate uncontrollably, which may lead to a crash.

The recall affects these Toyota models:

  • 2007 – 2010 Camry
  • 2005 – 2010 Avalon
  • 2004 – 2009 Prius
  • 2005 – 2010 Tacoma
  • 2007 – 2010 Tundra

If you own one of these vehicles, you should receive a notification in the mail. It'll explain the problem and give you details on where to take your car to have it fixed, which likely will be your local Toyota dealer.

The NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) works to make sure that our nation's roads are safe. It manages and oversees vehicle recalls in the US to make sure that car makers fix any problems quickly and properly. It does this through its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). The NHTSA has the power to order car makers to recall and repair vehicles or motor vehicle equipment when ODI investigations show serious safety defects in their design, construction or performance.

A car maker may also voluntarily make a recall or "safety campaign," which is what Toyota has done with the floor mat problem. When this happens, the ODI oversees the campaign to make sure all affected vehicles are fixed properly.

The NHTSA and ODI received 102 reports where drivers complained that the gas pedal in their Toyota vehicle became stuck. An ODI investigation was underway at the time Toyota made the recall. Toyota has assured car owners that it's working closely with the NHTSA to fix the current problem.

What to Do

Until Toyota and the NHTSA figure out how to fix the problem, Toyota suggests that owners of the affected vehicles do the following. First, take out the removable driver's floor mat, and don't replace it with any other mat.

If for some reason you don't want to remove it, and your vehicle accelerates suddenly after letting up on the gas pedal, you should:

  • Try to remove the mat from under the gas pedal, but only if you can do this safely. Then pull over and stop the vehicle
  • If you can't move the mat, firmly and steadily step on the brake pedal with both feet.  Don't pump the brake
  • Shift the transmission to Neutral (N), pull over, and stop the vehicle
  • If you can't put the vehicle in Neutral, turn the engine OFF, or to ACC. If your vehicle has an Engine Start/Stop button, firmly and steadily push the button for at least three seconds

If you choose not to remove your mat, Toyota recommends that you make sure:

  • You have the the proper mat for your car
  • That the mat is properly installed and secured
  • That the mat flipped over with the bottom-side up, and
  • That one floor mat isn't stacked over another

Protect yourself, your family and your investment. Car recalls are meant to do all of these things. If you own one of these cars, do what Toyota recommends immediately. If you don't receive recall information from Toyota or the NHTSA, you should contact the NHTSA or your Toyota dealer as soon as possible.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I own a car covered by the recall, and I was involved in an accident several months ago where my gas pedal got stuck. I was blamed for the wreck, and my insurance premiums went up dramatically. Is there anything I can do now to have the accident removed from my driving record and have my premiums lowered to the pre-wreck rates?
  • My wife was injured seriously in an accident with a car covered by the recall. That car's driver didn't remove the floor mat. Can't we hold him liable for my wife's injuries and medical bills?
  • Should I file a complaint with the NHTSA if my gas pedal gets stuck even though I know all about the recall and I don't actually get into an accident?
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