During today’s House Committee on Energy & Commerce hearing on the Toyota recall debacle, Congress heard from Rhonda Smith, a former Lexus owner who detailed her 2006 brush with death — and the even more horrid tale of her repeated attempts to get either Toyota or NHTSA to listen to her. Perhaps most chilling, Rhonda even tried to put the car in neutral while hurtling down the road, but not even that could stop the “possessed” Lexus.
Hey! The rumors were true! Toyota is recalling more cars! This time they are hauling you back to the dealer for a braking problem that is affecting several of their hybrid models — including the 2010 Prius, the Sai, which is not sold in the U.S., the plug-in version of the Prius, and the Lexus HS250h. They are also recalling 7,300 Camrys for a completely different problem.
Here’s a beauty contest you don’t want to win: 41% of the 2008 model safety complaints about “sudden acceleration” problems were for Toyota and Lexus models. That would be the same complaint lodged by that California family this summer when they crashed into a highway barrier at 120 mph when their loaner car wouldn’t stop speeding up, if they were still alive to make it.
If your car is one of the 3.8 million Toyotas affected by the stuck gas pedal recall, soon you’ll put your driver’s side floor mat back in. Starting in December, Toyota will begin repairing the defect temporarily by removing 3/4″ from the bottom of the pedal. They’ll begin installing replacement pedals in April.
Tragic details are revealed in NHTSA memo about the Lexus that crashed at almost 100 MPH after the gas pedal became stuck on the floormat, leading to the immolation and death of the four family-members inside, and Toyota’s 3.8 million vehicle recall.
Warning: This audio is graphic and shocking. Before Toyota could be bothered to recall 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus cars that they had known for two years had a problem, an off-duty state trooper and three members of his family had to die in fatal car crash when the gas pedal got stuck on the floormat. This is the recording of their 911 call moments before they crashed into the end of the freeway at 120 mph.
Toyota is recalling optional “all-weather” floor mats used in the 2007 Lexus and Camry because they could slip and trap the accelerator pedal. This, quite obviously, would be very, very bad.
Consumer Reports cautions that buyers of popular hybrid vehicles may soon be ineligible to claim the Alternative Motor Vehicle tax credit. The credit sunsets when a manufacturer sells more than 60,000 qualifying vehicles, a figure Toyota has already reached.
The credit has already begun to phase out for Toyota and Lexus hybrids purchased after September 30, 2006, and others will follow suit as they reach the sales volume target. The 2006 Prius’ tax break, for instance, dropped in half to $1,575 if it was purchased after that date, and it will split again to $788 between April and the end of September, 2007. After that, the Prius rebate disappears altogether.
The IRS provides a list of models certified for credit. Available only to those not subject to the alternative minimum tax, the credit can be worth up to $3,150 for vehicles purchased after 2005. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER