Toyota was strapped in the national hot-seat after a tragic accident in August involving a Lexus ES 350 was blamed on sudden, unintended acceleration. A floor mat from a Lexus RX 400h SUV was wrongly fitted to the sedan and suspected as being a key factor in that incident. Toyota Motor Sales has begun mailing letters to owners of certain Toyota and Lexus models regarding the potential for an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat to interfere with the accelerator pedal and cause it to get stuck in the wide-open position. (Read "Toyota, Lexus Recalling 3.8 Million Vehicles to Inspect Floor Mats.")
More significantly, Toyota reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has completed its investigation and found that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver's floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured. After conducting an extensive technical review of the issue, including interviews with consumers who had complained of unwanted acceleration, NHTSA concluded that " ... the only defect trend related to vehicle speed control in the subject vehicles involved the potential for accelerator pedals to become trapped near the floor by out-of-position or inappropriate floor mat installations."
This is the sixth time in the past six years that NHTSA has undertaken such an exhaustive review of allegations of unintended acceleration on Toyota and Lexus vehicles and the sixth time the agency has found no vehicle-based cause for the unwanted acceleration allegations.
"The question of unintended acceleration involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles has been repeatedly and thoroughly investigated by NHTSA, without any finding of defect other than the risk from an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat," said Bob Daly, TMS senior vice president. "The vehicle was fully instrumented to monitor and acquire data relating to yaw rate, speed, acceleration, deceleration, brake pedal effort, brake line hydraulic pressure, brake pad temperature, engine vacuum, brake booster vacuum, throttle plate position, and accelerator pedal position. Multiple electrical signals were introduced into the electrical system to test the robustness of the electronics against single point failures due to electrical interference. The system proved to have multiple redundancies and showed no vulnerabilities to electrical signal activities.”
In the recently completed investigation, NHTSA reported that:
The floor mat advisory involves: 2007 to 2010 Toyota Camry, 2005 to 2010 Toyota Avalon, 2004 to 2009 Toyota Prius, 2005 to 2010 Toyota Tacoma, 2007 to 2010 Toyota Tundra, 2007 to Lexus ES350, and 2006 to 2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350.
Until Toyota develops a remedy, it is asking owners of affected Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver's floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat. If brought now to a local dealership, many are securing the mats with zip ties.
In theory, the risks related to unsecure floor mats can apply to any vehicle, especially those using thick all-weather mats. As winter fast approaches, it is especially important for motorists to ensure their mats are properly fitted. If not, order appropriate mats. Simple as that.
Owners who have further questions are directed to visit toyota.com/floormats or lexus.com/floormats.
See our previous report: "Toyota, Lexus Floor Mat Saga Continues with NHTSA Insights."