Toyota remains sensitive about its safety issues and has launched a voluntary recall of 2m vehicles in the US including Lexus models and its Highlander [Kluger] SUV to modify the driver’s side floor carpet.
In a statement, local unit Toyota Motor Sales USA said it is recalling approximately 20,000 2006 and early 2007 model year Lexus GS300 and GS350 all wheel drive vehicles to modify the shape of the plastic pad embedded in the carpet which could interfere with the accelerator pedal if incorrectly repositioned after a service.
Owners will receive a recall notification in early March.
Toyota is also recalling around 372,000 2004 to 2006 and early 2007 Lexus RX330, RX350 and RX400h (hybrid) vehicles and approximately 397,000 2004 to 2006 Highlander and Highlander HV vehicles to replace the driver’s side floor carpet cover and its two retention clips.
Separately, Toyota has amended its recall from November 2009, adding three models to address potential floor mat problems which could affect the operation of the accelerator pedal. These include approximately 603,000 2003 to 2009 4Runners, 17,000 2008 to 2011 Lexus LX570 and 761,000 2006 to 2010 RAV4s.
Reuters noted that the surprise announcement extended a damaging string of recalls now covering 19m Toyota vehicles worldwide since 2009, mainly over complaints of unintended acceleration linked to defective floormats and acceleratorpedals.
The total of Toyota vehicles recalled in the United States this week topped the nearly 1.8m cars and trucks the automaker sold there last year.
“They want to put this behind them,” said Scott Painter, chief executive of auto buyer resource TrueCar.com told the news agency. “They have been affected financially and are trying to get customers back.”
Painter said the new recall could have a short-term chill on buyers but will help Toyota over the long term, especially since it was followed by a statement from regulators that they have concluded their investigation of the matter.
Shuba Srinivasan, a marketing expert at Boston University School of Management, told Reuters Toyota was taking a step “in the right direction” to regain public trust and rebuild its brand.
Mike Rozembajgier, vice president of recalls for ExpertRECALL, said Toyota will continue to be under the safety spotlight and must be “extra cautious to ensure that they’ve got the appropriate recall plans in place.”
Toyota said its decision to widen initial recalls stemmed from its ongoing conversations with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
NHTSA chief David Strickland said the agency has reviewed more than 400,000 pages of documents since last spring to determine whether the scope of Toyota recalls was sufficient.
“As a result of the agency’s review, NHTSA asked Toyota to recall these additional vehicles, and now that the company has done so, our investigation is closed,” Strickland said.
Toyota spokesman John Hanson said there had been no consumer complaints that spurred the action. Toyota said it was unaware of any injuries or accidents stemming from these recalls.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure we’ve captured any vehicles that could have a problem like this,” Hanson said.
Safety advocates remain skeptical the matter is finished.
“The reality is there are a continuation of problems that are going to haunt the company until they get to the real root of the issue,” said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies.
Kane’s group assists plaintiffs attorneys, including cases against Toyota. The company faces lawsuits over sudden acceleration with potential liability of US$10bn.
Hanson told Reuters the new recalls have dissimilar causes, including 1.4m vehicles for loose floormats that can jam the accelerator.