Toyota Motor Corp. released misleading information about an investigation into problems with stuck gas pedals that led to a massive Toyota recall, the U.S. government said Wednesday, stressing the issue is still under review by federal safety regulators.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was still investigating the case and meeting with Toyota to hear about the company's plan to redesign the vehicles and fix "this very dangerous problem."
Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles in the U.S. last month over problems with gas pedals that got stuck on floor mats and told owners to remove driver's side floor mats and not replace them until the automaker had determined a fix to the problem.
Toyota said in a statement on Monday that NHTSA had confirmed "that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver's floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured."
But NHTSA said that was inaccurate and the government was investigating possible causes of the acceleration problem. Removing the floor mats was "simply an interim measure" and "does not correct the underlying defect in the vehicles involving the potential for entrapment of the accelerator by floor mats, which is related to accelerator and floor pan design."
"The matter is not closed until Toyota has effectively addressed the defect by providing a suitable vehicle based solution," NHTSA said in the statement, which the department said was issued to correct "inaccurate and misleading information" from the automaker.
Toyota spokesman John Hanson said "it was never our intention to mislead or provide inaccurate information. Toyota agrees with NHTSA's position that the removal of the floor mats is an interim measure and that further action is required. We continue to discuss an appropriate vehicle remedy or remedies."
The recall includes 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/IS350.
The recall, Toyota's largest in the U.S., was prompted by a high-speed crash in August involving a 2009 Lexus ES350 near San Diego, California. Mark Saylor, a 45-year-old California Highway Patrol officer, and three members of his family were killed when their vehicle hit speeds exceeding 120 mph (193 kph), struck a sport utility vehicle, launched off an embankment, rolled several times and burst into flames.
Family members made a frantic 911 call from the Lexus and told a dispatcher the accelerator was stuck and they couldn't stop the vehicle.
The high-profile incident led Toyota President Akio Toyoda to call the fatal crash "extremely regrettable" and offer his "deepest condolences."