Last November Toyota gained notoriety for initiating the company’s largest recall in U.S. history, recalling more than 4 million vehicles to reconfigure the gas pedals and address potential problems with floor mats. At the time, the company noted concerns that a removable floor mat in many vehicles could come loose and interfere with a driver’s ability to stop the vehicle, resulting in car accidents.
Since that time though, Toyota’s problems have only grown. Even after consumers had removed the floor mats as advised, many drivers continued to report problems with the accelerator pedal. Less than two months after the initial recall, the automaker recalled an additional 2.3 million vehicles to address the accelerator pedal problem directly.
A week after that, Toyota halted production of several models to give the company time to correct the problem, just before expanding its initial floor mat related recall to include more than a million additional vehicles.
As of February 4, 2010, the total recall affected 8.1 million vehicles. Five days later, the company announced that it would also recall nearly half a million Prius hybrid vehicles to address braking problems, and there is little indication that this is the end.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received more than 80 complaints about potential steering wheel problems in late model Corollas, and may launch a formal probe into the issue.
Further, some have expressed concerns that an electrical systems problem may truly be to blame for the sudden accelerations, rather than the company’s claims about the accelerator pedals and floor mats.
Toyota has vehemently denied that any electrical system problems are causing the sudden accelerations, but lawmakers are skeptical. The chairman and subcommittee chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked Toyota to provide documentation supporting the automaker’s claim that electrical system problems are not at fault for the acceleration problems.
In addition, the Transportation Department is considering issuing a civil penalty to Toyota over the ways in which the company has handled the recalls. House hearings on these issues are expected to take place in February.
Ultimately, it is unclear how far these problems reach or how long it will be before Toyota is able to successfully resolve all of the problems. In the meantime, drivers must take particular care to protect themselves, their passengers, and other people on the roads. Unaddressed problems may result in serious car accidents and injuries. If you own a Toyota and are concerned about the safety of your car, check with your local dealer.