Exactly one year after Toyota's CEO, Akio Toyoda, stood before a congressional hearing to accept "full responsibility" for the safety defects in the company's cars that have been linked to dozens of deaths, the car manufacturing giant announced today it is conducting a "voluntary safety recall" of 2.17 million vehicles in the U.S. at the urging of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviewed more than 400,000 pages of Toyota documents to determine whether the scope of its recalls for pedal entrapment was sufficient," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement to ABC News. "As a result of the agency's review, NHTSA asked Toyota to recall these additional vehicles, and now that the company has done so, our investigation is closed."
Toyota is recalling vehicles of several different Toyota and Lexus models from 2004 to 2011, including more than 700,000 2010 RAV4s, the largest single batch of cars in the recall. More than 600,000 2009 4Runners were also recalled.
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"In the event that the floor carpet around the accelerator pedal is not properly replaced in the correct position after a service operation, there is a possibility that the plastic pad embedded into the floor carpet may interfere... [and] the accelerator pedal may become temporarily stuck in a partially depressed position rather than returning to the idle position," Toyota said in a statement on its website, explaining the recall of the 2007 GS 300. Each make and model listed was recalled for various floormat- or carpet-related safety issues.
The announcement came a year to the day after Toyoda told the congressional hearing he wanted to apologize for the deaths of four people in a runaway Toyota in 2009.
In that incident, a California highway patrolman couldn't stop the Lexus he was driving in 2007. In a desperate 911 call, a passenger in the car said, "Pray for us."
All four people in the car died in the collision that followed.
In the past two years, Toyota had already recalled nearly eight million of its vehicles due to the pedal malfunctions, and paid nearly $50 million in civil penalties after an NHTSA investigation into the problem.
Toyota only admitted the sticky pedal problem in the U.S. after ABC News reported on the case of a New Jersey driver whose car would not stop.
Earlier this month, the NHTSA announced the conclusion of its investigation into sudden acceleration in Toyotas that was allegedly caused by an electronic malfuntion. After assembling a team of NASA engineers to study the problem, the Department of Transportation announced the team was unable to find an electronic cause of the sudden acceleration.
"We enlisted the best and brightest engineers to study Toyota's electronics systems, and the verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
Toyota said in a statement at the time that the company welcomed the findings.
"We hope this important study will help put to rest unsupported speculation about Toyota's ETCS-i [Toyota Electronic Throttle Control System-Intelligent], which is well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur," the statement said.
However, the NASA report said that "because proof that the [electronic system] caused the reported [unintended accelerations] was not found, does not mean it could not occur."
"It's not over because tomorrow you could find what the cause is," Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center for Auto Safety told ABC News at the time. "There's no doubt in my mind there are electronic problems, but we're talking about a very rare event."
Despite the DOT's announcement clearing Toyota of electronic sudden acceleration problems, the car manufacturer is still in the crosshairs of a lawsuit filed by dozens of drivers who claim that cases of sudden unintended acceleration have caused them personal injury or financial harm due to the reduced resale values of their vehicles. Multiple lawsuits have been combined into one multi-district federal class action suit h in the U.S. District Court in Southern California.
According to court filings submitted as part of the case, Toyota company documents reveal that its own drivers were behind the wheel in two separate cases when the vehicles experienced sudden acceleration, as their owners had alleged had happened to them. One of the documents states, according to the filing, that a Toyota vehicle unexpectedly accelerated from 71 mph to 95 mph with "no pedal contact" while being evaluated by a Toyota service manager.
Toyota bought both vehicles back from their owners -- who had brought them in complaining about sudden acceleration -- and both owners say Toyota urged them not to discuss the incidents.