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Complaints by Toyota owners to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Friday, February 5, 2010; A14

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is often called upon to referee disputes between car owners and an automaker. In the cases listed below, consumers complained that their cars accelerated unexpectedly. Toyota blamed misplaced or improper floor mats, but the consumers disagreed. After interviewing the drivers and company representatives, the NHTSA sided with Toyota.

Driver complaint

2007 Lexus ES 350

"Its brake stopped working and started accelerating by itself. I looked at my foot wondering if my foot was on gas pedal, instead of brake pedal, but it was on brake pedal. I was in a total panic, but managed to drive the car away to the shoulder of the highway by putting the car in park mode. I thought I was dead at that moment. Lexus [said] that the vehicle had no problem, and that the cause was the floor mat. But, it was not."

NHTSA finding

"Unsecured floor mat discovered and corrected during dealer inspection."

Driver complaint

2007 Lexus ES 350

After one instance of unintended acceleration, the driver "restarted car to move to exit about 50 yds ahead. Car began run-away acceleration again, driver repeated steps pushing hard on brakes (smell and smoke) and shutting car off by pressing ignition button. . . . Mats were inspected by both driver and passenger before car was towed. Both noted that mats were intact and in their proper place. Driver noted clips were in place. (The car was in compliance with Lexus recall of mats having been serviced two months prior to incident.)"

NHTSA finding

"All-weather accessory floor mat improperly 'stacked' on top of carpet mat."

Driver complaint

2007 Lexus ES 350

"On two prior occasions the vehicle accelerated from speeds between 20-30 mph, to speeds up to 50-60 mph. On 9/11/07, the vehicle accelerated at speeds up to 80-90 mph. We are aware of the Lexus notification of floor mat interference, so we removed the mats after the first two times, but the last and most frightening, occurrence happened without the mat in the vehicle."

NHTSA finding

"All-weather accessory floor mat improperly 'stacked' on top of carpet mat."

SOURCE: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration complaint records

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