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

[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]