Toyota: Unintended Acceleration or Sticky Floor Mats?

Jeff Puthuff
by Jeff Puthuff

A year ago, TTAC published a story about out-of-control Toyota Tacomas. Since then, reports continue to surface of “unintended acceleration” events in Lexus ES and IS and Toyota Camry and Camry Solara vehicles. Toyota insists that all-weather floor mats are causing the problem; the accelerator becomes stuck under the rubber. alleges, well, you know. “This is a known problem with over 432 complaints,” the site’s author insists. According to NHTSA’s Defect Investigation’s database, reports of unintended acceleration in Lexus ES models first surfaced around 2004 and continued until late 2008. One report (ODI-NHTSA Complaint Number 10252860) describes the problem:

On November 5, 2008, I was driving on a freeway in my 2008 Lexus ES350 with the cruise control on. I gave the car a little extra gas to pass another car and the car just took off. I tried to disengage the accelerator by trying to turn off the cruise control switch as well as tapping on the brake pedal, but it would not disengage. I tried to turn off the engine by pushing the keyless ignition button, but it would not turn off. I checked the floor to make sure that there wasn’t anything on the accelerator, and there wasn’t. I then put the car in neutral, but when I did this, the engine sounded as if it were going to explode, so I put it back in gear. By this time, I was going well over 100 mph. My only choice was to stand on the brakes. Within seconds, the car was in a cloud of smoke coming from the 4 wheels/brakes. The car began to slow as thankfully the brakes were stronger than the engine which was going at its maximum rpm’s. The car went over a mile before finally coming to a stop. I was then able to put the car in park and stop the engine. After a few moments, when I had calmed down a bit, I started the engine again and it immediately start racing at maximum rpm’s again, so I shut it off . . .

Another report notes that an out of control vehicle traveled eight miles at more than 100 mph before striking two vehicles and becoming disabled. A person in one of the struck vehicles was killed in the collision.

It seems unlikely that a simple piece of rubber could cause so much terror, personal injuries, and, in one case, death. Why has Toyota not recalled the mats that are optional items sold by their dealers? (That’s right. These are OEM mats, not aftermarket items.) hosts a recorded conversation between an affected owner and a technician. The technician experienced the same acceleration problem when picking up the vehicle and driving it to the service center. His later explanation sounds scripted.

Toyota argues that if there was a problem, the computer that manages the vehicle’s speed would detect a difference between the accelerator and throttle positions and cause the engine to reduce power. In their investigations, they claim that no such errors were detected by the computer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is satisfied with Toyota’s explanation, although, worringly, they cite a lack of resources to investigate the matter any further.

Toyota’s solution to the sticky floormat: a few clips to attach it to the carpet and an orange sticker to stick on the back warning of the problem. But what about the cruise controls that refuse to disengage?

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  • Ruth Ruth on Feb 25, 2010

    I can only speak for what happened to me while driving my 2002 Honda Accord. People are pretty judgmental about unintentional acceleration and my advice is: be grateful it has never happened to you or someone you love. It was the most terrifying of events. If it ever happens to you...feel free to do whatever you think best in a span of 2 minutes when confronted with the unimaginable. I did what I needed to do. I walked away and my car was still 'drive-able' after extensive repairs. Please try to have a little empathy for people (lucky enough to still be alive!) whose cars have been affected by this dysfunction. Trust me, you never want to experience it for yourselves. We all do the best we can when an emergency occurs. Not only is the car racing (even 55 MPH seems like 100 MPH when you have no control), but your mind is racing too. In my case, the red light was fast approaching as were the cars waiting at the light. I actually told myself: "So this is how people die." Two minutes. You either figure it out or...

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  • Keith Some of us appreciate sharing these finds. Thank you. I always have liked these. It would a fun work car or just to bomb around in. Easy to keep running. Just get an ignition kill switch and you would have no worries leaving it somewhere. Those OEM size wheels and tires are comical. A Juke has bigger wheels!
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  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?