WASHINGTON — Toyota Motor Corp. said Tuesday it will recall 3.8 million vehicles in the United States, the company's largest-ever U.S. recall, to address problems with a removable floor mat that could cause accelerators to get stuck and lead to a crash.
The recall will involve popular models such as the Toyota Camry, the top-selling passenger car in America, and the Toyota Prius, the best-selling gas-electric hybrid.
Toyota said it was still working with officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find a remedy to fix the problem and said owners could be notified about the recall as early as next week. Toyota spokesman Irv Miller said until the company finds a fix, owners should take out the removable floor mat on the driver's side and not replace it.
"A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop a vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death," Miller said.
Toyota and the government issued separate warnings to owners of Toyota and Lexus vehicles about the safety problems tied to the floor mats.
"This is an urgent matter," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "For everyone's sake, we strongly urge owners of these vehicles to remove mats or other obstacles that could lead to unintended acceleration."
The recall will affect 2007-2010 model year Toyota Camry, 2005-2010 Toyota Avalon, 2004-2009 Toyota Prius, 2005-2010 Tacoma, 2007-2010 Toyota Tundra, 2007-2010 Lexus ES350 and 2006-2010 Lexus IS250 and IS350.
Toyota's previously largest U.S. recall was about 900,000 vehicles in 2005 to fix a steering issue. The company declined to say how many complaints it had received about the accelerator issue.
NHTSA said it had received reports of 102 incidents in which the accelerator may have become stuck on the Toyota vehicles involved.
The Japanese automaker warned owners that if they think their vehicle is accelerating out of control, they should check to see whether their floor mat is under the pedal. If a driver can't remove the floor mat, Toyota advises drivers to step on the brake pedal with both feet until the vehicle slows and then try to put it into neutral and switch the ignition to accessory power.
For vehicles with engine start/stop buttons, Toyota said the engine can be shut off by holding the button down for three seconds.
The safety concern was prompted by a fiery crash in California that killed four family members in August near San Diego. The crash killed California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, 45, and three others on State Route 125 in Santee.
The runaway car was traveling at more than 120 mph when it hit a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.
In mid-September, Toyota ordered 1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers nationwide to ensure that each new, used and loaner vehicles had the proper floor mats and that the mats were properly secured.
In September 2007, Toyota recalled an accessory all-weather floor mat sold for use in some 2007 and 2008 model year Lexus ES 350 and Toyota Camry vehicles because of similar problems.
For more information, consumers can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's hotline at (888) 327-4236, Toyota at (800) 331-4331 or Lexus at (800) 255-3987.