From: C. E. White on
NHTSA slaps Toyota for 'inaccurate' recall information
Neil Roland
Automotive News
November 5, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

WASHINGTON -- Toyota Motor Corp. was rebuked Wednesday by federal safety
regulators for issuing "inaccurate and misleading information" about a
safety recall involving 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

A Toyota statement earlier this week said the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration found "no defect exists in vehicles with properly
installed floor mats."

In fact, NHTSA said, Toyota vehicles have a "very serious defect."

The accelerator and floor pan design of the vehicles create "the potential
for entrapment of the accelerator by floor mats," said a statement by NHTSA,
a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Removing the floor mats "is simply an interim measure" that "does not
correct the underlying defect," the statement said.

"NHTSA issued a statement today correcting inaccurate and misleading
information put out by Toyota," the government agency's statement said.
NHTSA officials are meeting with Toyota "to hear their action plan for
redesigning the vehicles," it said.

No intention to mislead

Toyota said today it agreed with NHTSA's view that removal of the floor mats
is only an interim measure and that remedy of the vehicles in question is

"It was never our intention to mislead or provide inaccurate information,"
Toyota spokesman John Hanson said. "We are in the process of developing
vehicle-based remedies to help avoid the potential for an unsecured or
incompatible floor mat to trap the accelerator pedal."

In September, Toyota issued a voluntary recall of 3.8 million vehicles to
address problems caused when floor mats push the accelerator pedal to the
The company said last week it would begin sending letters to owners urging
them to remove the floor mats from their cars while the company considers
what to do to curb unintended acceleration problems.

The automaker's press release Monday, Nov. 2, cited a NHTSA denial of a
Lexus owner's request for an additional investigation of uncontrolled
acceleration. Application of the brake pedal had no effect on acceleration,
the Minnesota petitioner said.

NHTSA's decision last month concluded that "additional investigation is
unlikely to result in a finding that a defect related to motor vehicle
safety exists."
"This action does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related
defect does not exist," the 18-page decision said.

The Toyota press release said the NHTSA petition denial "confirms that no
defect exists in vehicles in which the driver's floor mat is compatible with
the vehicle and properly secured."

ABC News broadcast interviews this week with a number of Toyota drivers who
said their vehicles suddenly accelerated out of control even though their
foot depressed the brake and not the gas pedal.

Rebuke was 'unusual though not unique'

ABC cited reports of 16 acceleration-related deaths and more than 200

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said
NHTSA's rebuke today will make it more difficult for Toyota to use the
agency's petition denial in a future court case.

"Toyota was out of line in its press release, and the rebuke was
well-deserved," said Ditlow, whose organization was founded by consumer
advocate Ralph Nader.