Toyota voluntarily recalled 2.3 million cars on Thursday, admitting that the gas pedal could get stuck and cause sudden acceleration, a possible cause of a crash in Southlake that killed four church volunteers.
The four people drowned Dec. 26 when their Toyota Avalon careened off the road and into a pond. The Avalon involved in the crash is one of the models in Thursday's recall.
In a statement on its Web site, Toyota said the problem is rare, “but can occur when the pedal mechanism becomes worn and, in certain conditions, the accelerator pedal may become harder to depress, slower to return or, in the worst case, stuck in a partially depressed position.”
Toyota said Thursday’s recall included the following models:
- 2009-2010 RAV4
- 2009-2010 Corolla
- 2009-2010 Matrix
- 2005-2010 Avalon
- 2007-2010 Camry
- 2010 Highlander
- 2007-2010 Tundra
- 2008-2010 Sequoia
Investigators in the Southlake crash were not able to determine a cause, said Cpl. Mike Bedrich, of the Southlake Department of Public Safety.
He said officers were able to rule out several possible factors. The floor mat was found in the trunk. An autopsy showed the driver died of drowning and not of a heart attack or other medical issue. The road was dry.
Investigators were not able to rule out a defect with the gas pedal itself, Bedrich added.
The Avalon, Camry and Tundra models -- encompassing about 1.7 million vehicles -- also were included in the 4.2 million-vehicle recall Toyota launched in late 2009 over concerns that accelerator pedals could become lodged under floor mats, causing sudden acceleration. That problem was blamed for several crashes, including an accident involving a Lexus that accelerated to more than 120 mph before crashing in San Diego, killing four people.
But Toyota said Thursday's recall is because of potential problems with the actual gas pedal mechanism, causing the accelerator to become stuck regardless of whether the vehicle contains a floor mat. Toyota said in certain rare cases, the gas pedal mechanism wears down, causing the accelerator to become harder to press, slower to return or, in some cases, stuck.
In a letter to federal safety officials dated Thursday, Toyota said the problem appeared to be related to the potential buildup of condensation on sliding surfaces in the accelerator system that helps drivers push down or release the gas pedal.
For the vehicles affected by both recalls, their accelerator pedals could be at risk both of becoming trapped under floor mats and becoming stuck due to mechanical problems.
Toyota spokesman John Hanson said the automaker does not yet have a solution to the latest problem but is working to develop one. Hanson said the company is unaware of any accidents or injuries because of the gas pedal problems associated with Thursday's recall, but could not rule it out for sure. He said the recall "came together very quickly," and said Toyota will soon be contacting owners directly about the matter.
Hanson added that all of the vehicles involved in the latest recall contain a gas pedal system that comes from a single supplier. He declined to identify the supplier or say whether Toyota would continue doing business with the supplier.
"Responsibility for this in the end is ours," he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement that the problem is "a serious safety issue and we are pleased Toyota is taking immediate action to address it."
Toyota recommends that drivers of the recalled vehicles should firmly apply their brakes if the gas pedal becomes stuck -- not pump the brakes -- and contact their nearest Toyota dealer after parking in a safe location.
The safety stumbles have dinged Toyota's reputation in the United States as a builder of dependable, high-quality cars. Last year's recall was the sixth-largest ever in the United States.