The headline might be an overstatement of what Toyota Motor Company is facing as a result of the recent recall of over 2 million cars, but the scope of their potential problems is still staggering.
In the United States, some 2.3 million Toyota vehicles (the worldwide recall could extend to 9 million vehicles) are being recalled because the accelerator pedal could wear down potentially causing it to become difficult to depress, become stuck in a partially depressed position, or become slow to spring back. Toyota claims that the percentage of vehicles that might actually be affected is very low, and there are no verifiable statistics as to how many accidents have been caused as a result of these accelerator problems. Nevertheless, Toyota is facing a great number of product liability cases.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has investigated the problems which may be the worst since the Ford and Firestone Tire debacle. According to the committee, unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles has resulted in 19 US deaths in the past decade. Many lawsuits, including several class action lawsuits, have already been filed against the manufacturer. The plaintiffs all allege sudden, uncontrollable acceleration up to speeds over 80 mph. Neither brakes nor slamming the vehicle into park was sufficient to stop victims from striking trees, running red lights subsequently causing intersection accidents, and in one particular case, accelerating over a cliff.
Plaintiff lawyers are alleging that Toyota has been aware of this problem for a long time but has failed to take adequate steps to prevent the disasters described above. One of the attorneys involved in a lawsuit against Toyota has stated that the company initially blamed the drivers, then improper floor mats, and finally the accelerator pedals. It should also be noted that Toyota recalled their Lexus ES350 and Toyota Camry in 2007 for accelerator problems, but failed to extend the recall to all of their vehicles. This may have been a reckless and deadly decision by the corporation.
In the meantime, factories are closed and dealers are prohibited from selling remaining stock. The company is acting quickly to either repair or replace the problem parts on affected vehicles.