Toyota and the Sticky Pedal: Should We be Scared?

Toyota, the biggest Japanese and the 5th largest global brand of 2009, is full of bad news. Due to safety reasons, they are recalling 2.3 million cars in the US alone. Sales of eight of its top selling name-plates have been frozen, and a sticky-accelerator problem is making a huge dent in Toyota’s income. The problem was initially suspected to be limited to the cars assembled in North America, but Peugeot and Citroën announced that they would be recalling certain models built in the Czech Republic in a plant jointly operated with Toyota. This, was making everyone around the globe a bit more worried.

Toyota Prius in the meantime is also facing a recall. The World’s leading hybrid is reported to have a problem with its brakes. The Japanese Government confirmed this week five new accidents related to Prius’ brake problems. According to Tokyo Shimbun and Fuji Television network unconfirmed reports indicate that the Transport Ministry has received around 80 complaints while Toyota has received over 100 complaints separately since the crisis began. Toyota has not announced a recall on Prius yet, but they launched investigations into possible brake problems in two other hybrids, including the luxury Lexus.

So, what is the real issue?

According to Toyota:

The first recall, “Floor Mat Entrapment,” regards the potential for an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat to interfere with the accelerator pedal and cause it to get stuck in the wide-open position.

The second recall, “Pedal,” is being conducted because there is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.

What are the models that are likely face this issue?

Currently, Toyota is recalling these models in the US due to the sticky pedal issue:
• Certain 2009-2010 RAV4
• Certain 2009-2010 Corolla
• 2009-2010 Matrix
• 2005-2010 Avalon
• Certain 2007-2010 Camry
• Certain 2010 Highlander
• 2007-2010 Tundra
• 2008-2010 Sequoia

However, Camry, RAV4, Corolla and Highlander vehicles with Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) that begin with “J” are not affected by the accelerator pedal recall.

What is Toyota doing to address the situation?

They are sending letters to the current owners to schedule an appointment with their dealer.
The dealerships have extended their hours – some working 24x7 – to fix this issue as quickly as possible.
Toyota has halted production of the listed models this week until the cars on the road are fixed.
They have mobilised their entire workforce of 172,000 employees in North America in their effort to maximise quality.
As part of the recall campaign, new car sales of vehicles subject to the pedal recall have been temporarily suspended until the problem is remedied.

How dangerous is this problem?

Should we be very, very, scared? Nope, I don’t think so. There are reports of people losing lives due to runaway Toyota’s, which, is a serious issue. But however, one of the main reasons for the sticky pedal has been identified as wear and tear – so most new car owners have the chance to replace the part at the nearest dealership before anything could ever happen.

How does it affect Toyota owners in Sri Lanka?

Well, so far, the faulty accelerator unit is only found in the Toyota’s assembled in North America, even though there is a chance that some European plants may have received the same parts in their assembly lines.

The cars that come from Asia are said to be safe, but, however, there are unconfirmed reports of certain Asian models having issues in the UK. Toyota Prius is having issues in Japan, but then, we don’t have any hybrids in Sri Lanka either.

Since most of the models identified are not available in Sri Lanka, and since the Corolla’s and RAV4’s come here are of Asian origin, there is very little chance that Toyota’s in Sri Lanka are affected by this issue.

In case, if my Toyota decides to run away, what should I do?

Follow the Toyota way, found here. Some US dealerships are advising Toyota owners to practice this procedure in empty parking lots, just in case.

UPDATE: 8th Feb

Saudi Arabia’s Consumer Protection Association (CPA) on Sunday (yesterday) urged authorities to force Japanese carmaker Toyota’s local agent Abdul Latif Jameel Co (ALJ) to recall and check for defaults in cars it sold locally.

An official at ALJ said the company would invite within two weeks owners of Toyota Sequoia and Avalon models – both of which are produced in the United States – to get their cars checked.

CPA’s call, made in a statement sent to media, is the first by a consumer protection group in the Gulf Arab region – where Saudi Arabia is the biggest auto market – after Toyota recalled some 8 million cars worldwide on safety glitches.

However, Toyota's distributor in the United Arab Emirates, Al-Futtaim Motors, said the two models would be recalled in the Gulf country in a service campaign similar to the one in the United States.


  1. Why can't you just put the gear to neutral and brake????

  2. Yes, you are right. But the “smart” engines would not be able to recognize if the pedal is pressed by the driver or not, and therefore, it would behave as if the driver is accelerating the car - giving priority to that command.

    Therefore, it is advisable to firmly apply brakes with both feet first, then shift the gear to neutral, and continue to apply brakes firmly and steadily so that the car comes to a controlled stop. One mustn’t pump brakes as it would deplete the power of the brakes.

    In case if the gear cannot be shifted to neutral, Toyota’s advice is to turn the engine off (key position = ACC) and apply brakes to control the car. Do not remove the key. Turning power off would not cause a loss of braking or steering control, but power assisted features would be lost.

  3. that was kinda freaky..

    so much for safety checks and all that huh? but then given the level of competition in the market and other factors, I guess it's about getting the product out faster.

    thanks for the info!!:)

  4. Hi LD, yep. The thing is there are many US models in the Middle East - including direct imports and no one seems to be doing anything much yet. Consumer Bodies elsewhere in the world aren’t as demanding as in the US, Toyota’s biggest task would be to repair the reputation - not the cars.

  5. I drive a toyota yaris its not on the list yet!

  6. Santhoshi, Yaris is said to be safe.
    However, there are some Corolla’s that have shown signs of “sticky pedal” even though they are supposed to be of Asian origin! One of them belongs to a friend of mine – a brand new 2009 car.