Lexus, Camry recalls might cost Toyota billions

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. is considering fixing the accelerators of vehicles involved in a “safety recall” it issued in the United States due to the risk that a loose driver-side floor mat could slip forward and jam the pedal, sources said Wednesday.

Toyota is considering both altering the pedal’s shape and modifying a computerized control system in the some 3.8 million units subject to the recall. These measures will enable drivers to stop if the car goes out of control and accelerates to high speeds because the pedal is jammed by the floor mat, they said.

If Toyota goes ahead with the equipment repairs, it will cost the automaker billions of yen, they said.

On Oct. 6, Toyota told the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of its decision to issue the recall on seven models.

It is one of the largest safety recalls Toyota has implemented in the U.S. and includes the Camry sedan, the top-selling car in the U.S., as well as the Lexus ES350, IS250 and IS350 sedans.

Toyota has been urging owners to remove the floor mats, including rubber mats customers might have bought at automobile accessory shops.

The NHTSA earlier said it had received reports of some 100 related incidents, including 17 crashes and five fatalities involving Toyota vehicles.

However, the carmaker has argued that detailed causes of the accidents have yet to be identified, and added that no similar floor-mat problems have been found in the same models sold in Japan.

Toyota says this recall is essentially different from standard recalls targeting vehicles with a safety-related defect and it is therefore considering fixing the vehicles as a voluntary, rather than mandatory, maintenance requirement.

This would allow the automaker to carry out the work without acknowledging that the vehicles have the alleged safety-related defect, the sources said.

President Akio Toyoda earlier said the company “is considering what countermeasure it will take with the principle of placing greatest emphasis on the interests of customers.”

Toyota said in an earlier release it is looking at “the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat.”

In August, a California man and three members of his family were killed in a high-speed crash involving a Lexus ES sedan. Just before the crash, the driver made an emergency call to report that the accelerator pedal was stuck.

82,000-Vitz recall

The Associated Press

Toyota Motor Corp. will recall more than 82,220 Vitz compacts in Japan due to a faulty window switch, the transport ministry said Wednesday.

Ministry official Kazumi Furukawa said the defective window switch could short out due to excessive lubrication, possibly causing it to catch fire. The ministry has recorded 32 malfunction cases, including one fire, since 2007.