UPDATE: Another recall for Toyota owners — be informed about recent ‘sudden acceleration’ cases

Jan. 26, 2010 UPDATE:  Toyota announced that it will immediately suspend production and sales of eight vehicle models bound for the U.S. market to further investigate and repair the cause of sudden acceleration that has been plaguing some Toyota vehicles since last year, according to The New York Times.

For the second time in less than four months, Toyota is recalling millions of their cars and trucks in response to incidents of sudden acceleration being reported by some drivers, which have resulted in loss of vehicle control, accidents, injuries and several fatalities.

This time, the company said the recall affects about 2.3 million vehicles to correct what is being called “sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models.”

Last fall, about 4.2 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles were recalled in connection with similar concerns about sudden acceleration, but at that time the company said the problems appeared to come from apparent pedal entrapment by incorrect or out of place accessory floor mats.

According to Toyota, about 1.7 million of those Toyota vehicles are subject to both overlapping recalls.

The latest recall is finally beginning to at least acknowledge what many affected Toyota vehicle owners have said all along — that the sudden acceleration problems were likely caused by more than just improperly positioned floor mats in the past.

A typical vehicle speedometer in a modern automobile is shown here in this photograph. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/fountain_of_useless_info

In several recent broadcasts, ABC News has interviewed owners of Toyota vehicles that have experienced sudden acceleration issues and they’ve directly described the problems as being unrelated, in their opinions, to floor mat issues. What they described instead were gas pedals that seemed to have lives of their own and accelerated the vehicles without being depressed manually, according to the reports.

“Safety expert Sean Kane tells ABC News that since last fall, when Toyota said it had solved the acceleration problem with proposed changes to gas pedals and a recall of 4.2 million cars with suspect floor mats, more than 60 new cases of runaway Toyotas have been reported,” ABC reported yesterday. “He believes this latest recall may still not be a complete fix of a problem that continues to be linked with serious accidents and deaths. In the most tragic incident, on the day after Christmas, four people died in Southlake, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, when a 2008 Toyota sped off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond. The car’s floor mats were found in the trunk of the car, where owners had been advised to put them as part of the recall.”

It’s taken months for Toyota to accept the experiences of actual drivers who have experienced these problems in their vehicles, but it’s about time.

Now the company is finally looking at what many affected owners said all along — that the problem was caused by gas pedals that couldn’t be controlled.  “In recent months, Toyota has investigated isolated reports of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms in certain vehicles without the presence of floor mats,”  Toyota Motor Sales  group vice president Irv Miller said in a statement. “Our investigation indicates that there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.  Consistent with our commitment to the safety of our cars and our customers, we have initiated this voluntary recall action.”

Here is a list of vehicles affected by yesterday’s recall:

• 2009-2010 RAV4,

• 2009-2010 Corolla,

• 2009-2010 Matrix,

• 2005-2010 Avalon,

• 2007-2010 Camry,

• 2010 Highlander,

• 2007-2010 Tundra,

• 2008-2010 Sequoia

These recalls follow another alleged safety matter related to Toyota vehicles that occurred  last September.  In that case, the company  was sued by a former corporate attorney who alleged that Toyota illegally withheld critical information about hundreds of rollover crashes involving injuries and deaths. That case is still in its early stages.

If you own one of the affected vehicles in the recalls, be sure to contact your vehicle  dealer to schedule the required repairs as soon as possible.

And if your vehicle should be affected by a sudden acceleration episode, here’s what you need to know, based on an ABC News video report.  If your Toyota or any other vehicle should accelerate on its own, apply the brakes and shift the transmission into neutral. Then use the brakes and steering to stop and control the vehicle safely. The engine will be racing noisily, but you can shut it off safely with the ignition key once the vehicle is stopped.  Don’t shut the key off as you are still moving because that will cut off your power steering and power brakes, and will also lock your steering, which you don’t want to do.  After stopping the vehicle, have it towed to your vehicle dealer and have it repaired.

You also could have legal rights beyond the recalls and repairs for any injuries or damages that you suffer as a result of these vehicle issues.  Don’t sign anything or give up those legal rights until you have evaluated your situation and your options.