As auto accident attorneys here in Maryland, we know that car and truck crashes can occur for a variety of reasons. When one of those reasons points to a defective design or service procedure on an automobile, SUV or other passenger car, people take notice. Earlier news reports had stated that Toyota was recalling nearly four million cars including the popular Camry for a seemingly inconsequential problem — a poorly designed floor mat.
In this case, the vehicles’ accelerator pedal could become stuck when pressed to the floor, held down by the floor mat and causing a potential runaway engine scenario and possible injuries. According to reports Toyota has announces a fix for this potential unintended acceleration issue, which may be a relief to many, but which may call into question the quality aspect of Toyota’s engineering and design work going forward.
Apparently Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem won’t be going away any time soon, either. Consumer Reports has recently taken a look at complaints of unintended acceleration from owners of 2008 vehicles, during which the magazine found that 41 percent of the complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) came from Toyota owners.
For the current floor mat-related issue, Toyota will reportedly be addressing the immediate problem by changing the out the accelerator pedals in four million recalled vehicles in the U.S. According to the latest news, the company will reconfigure the pedals to better conform with the floor mat. In some instances, the shape of the vehicle floor will also be changed to help prevent the problem.
What’s interesting is the news that Toyota will apparently be installing electronic countermeasures in the form of a braking override system in Camry, Avalon, and Lexus ES 350, IS 350 and IS 250 models. This additional control system will act to cut engine power in instances where there is a simultaneous application of both the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal — as can occur when a driver is trying to stop a car that has a runaway acceleration condition. Reports indicate that owners of these models will be notified during 2010.
All this started back in September, when Toyota announced its largest vehicle recall ever for the floor mat problem. However, investigations by the NHTSA have raised additional questions as to whether floor mats alone were the sole reason for the unintended acceleration incidents in Toyota and Lexus models.
These questions, and the Japanese manufacturer’s massive recall, grew initially out of a fatal accident that occurred last August when an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and three family members were killed in the San Diego area.
To add to Toyota’s deteriorating image as a builder of quality passenger cars, there are claims surfacing that Toyota destroyed engineering and vehicle test data evidence that it had in regards to pending rollover litigation.
Toyota Tops Complaints of Unintended Acceleration, Report Says, NYTimes.com, December 8, 2009