Toyota Motor Corp. plans its biggest U.S. recall because of a defect that may cause floor mats to jam down the accelerator pedal on vehicles including the top-selling Camry, certain Lexus models, and its hybrid Prius.
The issue is "critical" and affects about 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles, according to the world's biggest car maker, based in Japan.
The automaker told U.S. dealers two weeks ago to inspect how floor mats are installed after a California Highway Patrol officer and three family members died in a crash in a Lexus that may have had a jammed accelerator.
"Toyota considers this a very critical matter and will soon launch a safety campaign on specific Toyota and Lexus vehicles," said Irv Miller, group vice president for Toyota's U.S. sales unit.
Toyota said it was still working with officials of the U.S. Transportation Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find a remedy for the problem. Owners could be notified about the recall as early as next week, Toyota said. The company advises that owners should take out the removable floor mat on the driver's side and not replace it.
"For everyone's sake, we strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
The safety agency said it had received reports of 102 incidents in which the accelerator may have become stuck on the Toyota vehicles involved.
The vehicles affected by the recommendation are Toyota's 2007-10 Camry sedans, 2005-10 Avalon sedans, 2004-09 Prius hybrids, and 2005-10 Tacoma and 2007-10 Tundra pickups and Lexus' 2007-10 ES 350 and 2006-10 IS 250 and IS 350 sedans.
If drivers encounter a problem with an accelerator stuck because of the floor mat, they should first try to dislodge the mat, Mr. Miller said. If that does not work, they should step on the brake with both feet, he said. More details on the safety advisory are available at the Toyota Web site www.toyota.com. Drivers may also call Toyota at 1-800-331-4331 or Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.
Toyota's largest U.S. recall to date involved 978,000 vehicles to fix a steering-related flaw that could cause drivers to lose control.