U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has gone on record stating that it took "an enormous effort" to get Toyota to recall vehicles that were experiencing sudden acceleration problems due to a gas pedal defect that can cause them to stick. While he noted that he was glad to see Toyota finally taking action, he also made it clear that the investigation into Toyota, the defects, and the implementation of the recall is not over. If federal safety officials had not pushed for the recalls, LaHood says Toyota wouldn’t have done a thing.
Toyota claims that the recall is in response to a few reports it received in October. However, the automaker has also stated that it had received reports of faulty pedals as early as March 2007, and revised their gas pedal design twice prior to issuing the recall.
Similarly, Toyota had to be pushed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue its initial recall for floor mats that could potentially cause gas pedals to get stuck against the floor. This defect has caused at least five deaths in two accidents, according to the NHTSA, while safety advocates claim the defects are linked to at least 19 deaths.
The important point to note here is that, unlike what Toyota’s executives may want the public to think, Toyota has not undertaken this recall out of a sense of doing what is right, but instead was dragged kicking and screaming, it appears, to issue the recall. This type of conduct by the automobile industry is fairly typical, in my experience. The inustry likes to term the recalls as "voluntary", but usually the recalls are essentially forced upon the manufacturer by NHTSA when the manufacturer balks. The bean counters at Toyota are probably having heart palpitations.