In August 2009, an off-duty California state trooper lost control of his Lexus ES350, resulting in an accident that killed several family member passengers in his vehicle. The 2009 manufactured Lexus model and this fatal accident in the San Diego area are among a growing number of motor vehicle collisions that have resulted in injuries and fatalities involving Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the U.S. in 2009.
The inspectors who examined the family’s car found driver’s side all-weather floor mats longer than the standard floor mats that should have been fitted in the Lexus. This finding lead to the investigation of the possibility that this mat became stuck under the accelerator pedal, causing the high speed accident. The Lexus in question was loaned to the family while their own car was undergoing repairs.
This accident, and reports of the involvement of Toyota-brand vehicles in other fatal crashes, possibly with similar causes, prompted The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue a press release advising all owners of Toyota and Lexus cars to remove the driver’s side floor mats and not replace them until the issue has been resolved.
Toyota issued several statements on the matter and recalled any vehicles which may be affected, at present only in the U.S. market, and advised all dealers to check and replace floor mats in all models in their showrooms. Almost 1,400 nationwide Toyota dealerships were affected by the recall.
Not only does Toyota face a class action lawsuit over the mat defect, the company may face additional issues on the legal front. The unfortunate publicity related to the floor mat issue came in a year when Toyota was under fire for other defects, such as excessive rust problems in new trucks. The company also faces the re-opening of multiple lawsuits regarding rollover accidents due to new information suggesting the questionable action of certain staff members with regard to evidence.
The issue with the floor mats leading to increased acceleration has lead to additional criticism. It seems other manufacturers have developed safety precautions related to floor mats that Toyota has yet to adopt.
The car involved in the San Diego accident was not the regular vehicle owned by the family. The family borrowed the Lexus from their local dealership while waiting for their personal car to be repaired. This issue raises alarm in families who own different models of Toyota cars, should their family vehicle also require repair and a defective rental be loaned in the interim.
Toyota customers are questioning local dealerships to find out if any of these problems could also occur in their own cars, and are very concerned about the situation. Consumers are hoping for conclusive answers and the clarification of the situation through pending lawsuits.