ALERT: Toyota Recalls 2004-2009 Prius, DoT Urges Removing Floor Mat

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Loose all-weather floor mat jams accelerator pedal. Photo: NHTSA

Loose all-weather floor mat jams accelerator pedal. Photo: NHTSA

Toyota may will recall all models of the 2004-2009 Toyota Prius to ensure that the driver' side floor mat cannot interfere with the accelerator and brake pedals, possibly causing the accelerator to stick.

This afternoon, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an "urgent" warning to owners that strongly advises them to remove any floor mats on the driver's side and not replace the mats with anything else. Toyota said that both aftermarket and factory floor mats could be involved.

Biggest recall in history

As reported this afternoon on our sister site, Toyota has reportedly agreed to recall up to 3.8 million vehicles to check for the problem, the 2004-2009 Prius among them.

This would will be the largest recall in the company's history, four times the size of a 2005 recall involving faulty steering rods.

Toyota Camry floormats and carpeting

Toyota Camry floormats and carpeting

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[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 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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (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.]

Other Toyota vehicles affected are the 2007-2010 Toyota Camry, the 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon, the 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma, and 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra pickup trucks. Two Lexus models are included as well: the 2007-2010 Lexus ES 350, and the 2006-2010 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350.

Two weeks ago, Toyota ordered dealers to inspect all cars for mismatched floor mats after a grisly fatal crash in late August, in which an occupant of a 2009 Lexus ES called 911 to report a stuck accelerator and non-functioning brakes.

Four passengers died when the car crashed, rolled over, and burned. Accessory floor mats fitted by the dealership that were too large for the vehicle were suspected.

What should I do?

Toyota issued advice for drivers to keep in mind in the unlikely event that their vehicle continues to accelerate even after the gas pedal is released. The company suggests:

  • Pull back the floor mat and dislodge it from the accelerator; 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.

Sudden acceleration redux?

The NHTSA advisory notice and the recall are bound to reignite concern over cases of supposed "sudden acceleration" in the Toyota Prius and other models.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Hotline is (888) 327-4236. Toyota owners can reach the company's Experience Center at (800) 331-4331; Lexus owners can contact the Lexus Customer Assistance Center at (800) 255-3987.

[TheCarConnection, Consumer Reports, Edmunds Green Car Advisor]

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Comments (3)
  1. My 2007 Prius has L hooks under the driver seat that holds the floor mat in place. It is the only car in my 40 plus years of driving that has this feature. It is surprising that the Prius of all cars would be subject to a recall due this "problem". My Mercedes CLK has factory original floor mats that are too thin and slide under the pedals and crumple up as well, but I have gotten in the habit of leaning down and pulling them out of the way periodically. Toyota's response seems excessive, especially when compared to the lack of response by Ford to their problems with the Pinto, Explorer, and Crown Victoria, which have incinerated their occupants as a result of product defects known to the Ford Engineers for years.

  2. First and foremost, it’s tragically obvious there has not been nearly enough thought to all the necessary fail-safe and safety override modes designed into these “drive-by-wire” automotive systems. The Germans at least had the good sense to make their engines go to idle mode if their systems were presented with the conflicting inputs of throttle and brakes applied at the same time ("smart pedal"). (The Toyota system does not do this. Shame on Toyota — as well as the NHTSA who apparently “approved” of this!) As far as “keyless” ignition system designs go, an across-the-board “standard” is needed immediately. The dashboard “switch” should probably have at least three positions: “Off” (as in -- turn the engine ignition AND electric fuel pump systems both off -- right now); “Idle” (to bring engine power down - but not fully off - to allow for the power steering and brakes to continue to function); and “On or Run.” To have to “hold” the start-button in for ” three seconds” during an emergency situation is beyond any safety design rules I believe could or would ever be allowed for production and placed into widespread use by the driving public……

  3. i have instructed my family members that drive the 2007 toyota prius that we have to hold the power button in for three solid seconds and everything will turn off.... if unintended acceleration occurs.
    two of my older sons asked "then what happens" do the wheels lock? can you steer? can you brake?-- any idea?

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