Toyota's decision to both halt production and the sales of eight of its models has some real implications in Tennessee. The Channel 4 I-Team has learned of a potential fix on the way for vehicles impacted by a floor mat recall.
When the I-Team first began investigating problems with Toyota vehicles in 2007, Toyota at first suggested it was driver error, then years later admitted it could be faulty floor mats slipping under the gas pedal, causing it to accelerate.
Now, Toyota said there could be problems with the gas pedals in certain models sticking, leaving victims' families to now rethink their lawsuits and what exactly caused their vehicles to take off and crash.
Before the frantic calls to Tennessee Toyota dealerships and the worried drivers showing up with questions, there are those who years ago were affected by what they call defective Toyota vehicles that suddenly accelerated without warning.
For some of them, this latest announcement by Toyota could be a game changer.
"They've already identified three potential problems with their cars that's resulting in the deaths of individuals," said attorney Mike Rowan, who represents the family of Dustin Ricardo.
The I-Team first reported in November how the Clarksville man died when his 2007 Camry suddenly accelerated and crashed. The 2007 Camry is among the vehicles for the time being not being sold at dealerships for concerns about the gas pedals.
Ricardo's attorney was at first convinced floor mats caused the crash but said now all victims of sudden acceleration must consider if a faulty gas pedal may be to blame as well.
"I do believe the gas pedal could be part of the reason his car took off," Rowan said.
In addition to the stop of sales and production on eight vehicles, there are two recalls under way.
Several Tennessee dealerships told the I-Team Toyota has told them to expect parts to fix the first recall concerning the floor mats issues in the next week so those vehicles can be fixed by February.
As for the recall concerning the gas pedal issue, there is no known fix on the horizon for that. Those cars can't yet go into dealers to be fixed and can't leave the lots with new owners.
"Certainly we're going to miss a few sales and so on, but for the balance, that's OK. I'd much rather be safe than sorry," said Doug White, Toyota dealership owner.
Dealerships are going to replace the floor mats. The gas pedal will be shortened so the floor mat can't slip underneath it and jam. A brake override system will be put in so the brakes will override the accelerator at all times.
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