Toyota had a “game plan” in 2007 to avoid a major vehicle recall for disputes involving unintended acceleration. Instead, Toyota was able to implement a mere floor mat recall, reports the Washington Post.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) became interested in Toyota floor mats in March 2007, after five complaints concerning Toyota’s 2007 Lexus ES350, writes the Post. Three were crashes. That summer, the agency widened its investigation to the 2007 Camry after one of those vehicles careened out of control in San Jose, killing the driver of another vehicle. According to the Post, a floor mat was apparently attributed to that crash. Also, consumer complaints and insurance statistics began to mount for unintended-acceleration in Toyotas.
An internal NHTSA memo revealed investigators thought “something about the throttle pedal or floorpan design lends itself to easier jamming than other models produced in the past.” According to the Post, they speculated the problem might also include the Prius, Camry and Avalon, and could occur when either Toyota-made or after-market floor mats were in a vehicle.
The Post said Toyota had a “game plan” for the inquiry and eshewed the NHTSA’s findings. The mega automaker insisted that no danger existed if consumers correctly installed the proper Toyota floor mats; thus, there were no defects and reason for a recall. In the end, Toyota would agree to pull only one kind of floor mat that affected fewer than 55,000 cars, said the Post.
In a presentation for Toyota North America’s president, Yoshimi Inaba, two years later, the limited recall was considered a “win” for the world’s largest automaker. According to the Post, Toyota bragged it had saved $100 million by postponing findings of a defect.
That came to an end this past fall, after the highly publicized death of a California Highway Patrolman and family members. Toyota finally acknowledged accelerator pedals in 12 different model floor plans needed modification to prevent floor mats from entrapping the accelerator. Unfortuneately, a total of 20 more deaths had occurred…all connected to unintended acceleration.