If you owned a Toyota back in 2009, you may remember that Toyota issued a massive floor mat recall. The recall addressed a major issue with the removable floor mat on the driver’s side. The floor mat design could cause accelerators to get stuck.
The recall affected a total of 3.8 million Toyota vehicles in the US. It was the company’s largest-ever U.S. recall.
Toyota Models That Were Affected by This Recall
The recall affected a wide variety of Toyota and Lexus models:
- 2007-2010 Camry
- 2007-2010 Tundra
- 2005-2010 Avalon
- 2004-2009 Prius
- 2005-2010 Tacoma
- 2004-2006 Highlander
- 2004-2006 Highlander HV
- 2003-2009 4Runner
- 2006-2010 Lexus GS 300
- 2006-2010 Lexus GS 350
- 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250
- 2006-2010 Lexus IS 350
How The Toyota Floor Mats Caused The Accelerator To Get Stuck
In August 2009, a Lexus ES 350 crashed at over 100 mph, killing four people. It was later determined that the cause of the crash was a throttle that stuck open.
After investigating the crash, Toyota announced a floor mat “customer safety advisory”. Toyota analysts concluded that there was a design flaw with the floor mats. After a routine service procedure, the plastic hooks could interfere with the accelerator pedal. The mat would, in certain cases, catch the accelerator pedal and cause it to stay partially depressed.
The Issue Was Not Caused By The Electronic Throttle Control System
A few Toyota owners theorized that the issue was not the floor mat, but rather the engine’s electronic throttle control system. A few owners have experienced their Toyota speeding up to nearly 100 miles per hour, and being unable to stop it with their brakes. This led some Toyota owners to speculate that this was because of an engine issue rather than a floor mat issue.
The speculation was so widespread that it reached the U.S. Congress. The Congress requested the NHTSA to investigate Toyota’s electronic throttle control system. After 10 months, the NHTSA concluded that Toyota’s electronic throttle control system had no issues.
How Toyota Fixed This Issue
For a while, Toyota worked with officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find a remedy to fix the problem. In the meantime, Toyota spokesman Irv Miller encouraged owners of the affected Toyota models to remove the floor mat on the driver’s side.
Toyota made sure that this never happened again. The automaker came out with a couple of great solutions:
1. Smart Stop Technology
Along with automakers around the world, Toyota developed smart gas pedals. If the vehicle is moving and both the gas and brake pedal are being pushed at the same time, the computer tells the engine to ignore the gas pedal. This results in the braking system overriding the gas pedal. The driver will be able to stop the vehicle.
Smart gas pedals were first developed by German automakers. Toyota adopted the idea after its floor mat fiasco. It called their design Smart Stop Technology. This technology eventually became standard on all Toyota models.
2. Floor Mat Redesign
The US Department of Transportation fined Toyota $17.35 million for failing to report the floor mat defect to the government. Yet, Toyota slaved away to make sure that the floor mat design defect didn’t happen again. Toyota redesigned its floor mats and replaced the defective ones with the redesigned ones.
Toyota Was Also Fined $1.2 Billion
In the wake of the floor mat fiasco, another problem was discovered in select Toyota models: a sticky gas pedal. It also caused acceleration issues. There was a plastic material inside the pedal that after wear and tear could cause the accelerator to stick in a partially depressed position. The Smart Stop Technology can prevent the sticky pedal from causing an accident. Yet, the Justice Department fined Toyota $1.2 billion.
This earned Toyota tons of bad press. Toyota had certainly learned from its mistakes and fixed the sticky pedal issue as well. More recent history shows that Toyotas are some of the most safe, reliable vehicles on the market.