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Toyota Calls Hoax On Runaway Prius In San Diego

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2008 Toyota Prius

2008 Toyota Prius

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Toyota's sudden acceleration problems seemed to get immeasurably worse last week when San Diego resident James Sikes' Prius appeared to accelerate uncontrollably, requiring assistance from a California Highway Patrol officer's car to come to a stop. The media frenzy that ensued spread the story to every corner of the Internet, TV and print worlds. But now it looks like the whole thing may have been a hoax.

Or a scam. Toyota (NYSE:TM) today revealed its preliminary official findings after investigating the incident and the car, coming to the conclusion tha the accelerator pedal was functioning normally, the front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating, the floormat in the car was the correct type but was not installed properly, the push-button start/stop switch worked properly, and that the shift lever also easily engaged neutral, as well as other factors that indicated nothing was at fault mechanically with the Prius involved. Toyota even tested the brakes to overheating and found that the car could still be stopped from high speeds.

The sum of these elements lead Toyota to conclude that there is no apparent reason for the problem itself, and that Mr. Sikes' account of events should be investigated further--a tacit way of saying that they don't believe a word he's saying. In its release, Toyota stated, "there are strong indications that the driver's account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis."

The release went on to state, "Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations."Clearly, Toyota is staking out its territory on the matter, but it remains to be seen if Sikes and/or independent investigators will be able to show that the "runaway Prius" was more than a Balloon Boy-like attention grab. For more details on Toyota's ongoing unintended acceleration issues, and the recalls surrounding them, check out the links below.We'll keep you up-to-the-minute on the situation as it develops. Read the full press release on page 2.

Toyota Sudden Acceleration: Is It All Older Drivers' Fault?2004-2008

Toyota Prius Recall Will Reshape Accelerator Pedal

NHTSA Has No Software Engineers or EEs To Analyze Toyotas

RECALL: 2010 Toyota Prius, Lexus HS250h For ABS Software Update

UPDATE: Braking Issue In 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid, Recall TBD

Piling On: Problems With Prius Brakes Are Toyota's Latest Worry

Is Woz's Prius Acceleration Just Toyota's Wacky Adaptive Cruise?

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Comments (21)
  1. Let's play the credibility game:
    On side one - a terrified old man not looking for media attention or money, never gave an interview and indicating not interested in suing.
    On side two - a multi national company in the midst of a PR nightmare around faulty brakes.
    Brilliant move Toyota - come out calling the guy a liar.

  2. Why would this man make this story up?...THIS IS SO CLEAR !
    The number one car manufacturer in the world (Toyota) has been killing the US auto industry for 20 years. Now, on the steps of bankruptcy, the US auto industry is fueling every story they can about Toyota, even planting idiots like James Sikes (above) to try and hurt Toyota.
    To put this whole Toyota issue in perspective, 4 people have died. Did you know Ford recalls have been directly related to 67 deaths in 10 years and GM 112? To make it simpler, did you know that last year 9 people died from baby slings? Gee, i wonder why you know so much about Toyota and not the other issues?
    Our media is so tainted it is sickening.

  3. @Bobby: You're missing the fact that the "terrified old man" is actually over $700,000 in debt, and part of that debt was his Prius. Suddenly he doesn't seem that credible. Don't believe me? Watch the news or Google it.

  4. Have you guys even looked at the facts. This guy has filed for BR many times and is currently $700,000 in debt. The investigation by NHTSA also suggests the breaks should have been able to stop the car. Neither NHTSA nor Toyota went as far as calling Sikes a liar. If you have any common sense at all it will not pass the smell test.

  5. Exactly!!
    Ford and GM are fueling these stories. This story is only news in the US. Here in the UK, it doesnt even make page 4. You poor americans are being bombed with propaganda from your auto industry country. This dumb sap probably got paid a few bucks to say his car went crazy. Truth will come out.

  6. It's been reported that Mr. James Sikes is a member of the CORVETTE owners club. So, now we are supposed to believe that he doesn't know how his PRIUS(for which he has not made payments on for 2 years) operates?!?! Also, it's important to note that the testing was conducted both by Toyota and the NHSTA. If Mr. Sikes is attempting to pull a fast one, it's obvious he apparently rode on the brakes just enough so the brakes didn't actually stop the prius but had caused damage to the brakes. That's probably because he had his foot on the accelerator as well?!?!

  7. Rule of law, freedom of expression/speech/press, human rights, personal liberty are some of the fundamentals of any democratic society and the US is the very symbol of that.
    In order to protect our rights and uphold the spirit of the constitution, each and every citizen has a resposibility to make an effort to be well informed about the issues that effect us all. Similarly, the press/media has the vital responsibilty of providing responsible and accurate information for the public at large.
    It is worrisome to see that the media as a whole is moving away from responsible journalism and becoming more inclined towards sensationalism as has been demonstrated by this TOYOTA WITCHHUNT and this ridiculous Prius hoax clearly perpetrated by a con artist(SIKES).
    I am deeply disappointed that the MASS MEDIA for it's part has not given enough coverage regarding the hoax particularly since it(MASS MEDIA) so eagerly participated in reporting the purported runaway Prius story.
    It's time we demand responsible journalism.

  8. A simular wild Prius ride took place here in Norway as well some days ago: The car took control from the driver/owner and reached 178 km/h on a highway outside Oslo before the horrified driver managed to stop the car by crashing it to a roadside fence. Toyota Norway will investigate... (Toyota will do the investigating.....?)?

  9. So, we're not going to wait till this guy does sue before we question his motives? Whatever it takes to make you feel a little better about your auto purchase...

  10. Let me guess - the guy in Norway has bad breath and isn't nice to animals so he's clearly not credible either.

  11. Seems strange that Toyota sell millions of cars around the world but only in the US are these problems happening.

  12. Think about these facts:
    1) Drive-by-wire cars have electronic rev limiters. The engine will not explode.
    2) You cannot put the transmission shift control into Park while moving at high speed. Well, I could try to lock the driven wheels with a sudden hard brake application, then slip the shifter into park while the wheels are not turning rapidly. I have not tried that stunt since anti lock brakes became standard.
    3) Turning the ignition OFF will not lock the steering wheel unless the transmission shift control is in Park.
    4) Toyota supplied left front floor mats are equipped with body-floor anchors – which can be removed if the owner chooses to replace the OE mat with a thick “winter” floor mat.

  13. I, as a jury member, am still out on this.
    Priuses use a combination of EMF braking and mechanical braking. Until the car has reached a certain speed the "real" mechanical brakes are not engaged. Had the person only been pumping the brakes, or riding the brakes, the brakes themselves should not have shown damage. Based on the other stories I still have to go with it is possible that a computer error could cause the accelerator override not to kick in.
    As far as neutral was concerned....he was milking it. He could have easily ended any problems by going into neutral by holding the shifter in neutral for 3 seconds, if the computer hadn't ignored that as well. The fact that he didn't try it when told to means he deserves every bit of "bullshit calls" that he is receiving.
    Remember both accelerator and brakes were shown to have been pumped over 250 times in rapid succession, as would happen if he was trying to get them to work. Had he been faking everything it would have shown the accelerator held to the floor.

  14. What a idiot. He deserves to go be sued and should go to jail.
    Bobby, don't make crap up. You're a idot just like this dude for believing its real. You do not know that his motives were not to sue. But obviously, now that everybody knows its a hoax, he will not sue and say "Why would I pull this kind of stunt."

  15. @ Marshall
    It's a lot more than 4 try 34 with 22 more injuries.
    It's the 2nd most deadly car recall in history. Behind the Ford/Firestone Recall of the late 90's.
    Get your facts straight.

  16. Give me a break! The man didn't want to sue, yet he had the lawyer that represented another Toyota car death incident case speak on his behalf??? WTF??? The man is A MORON! END of DISCUSSION and for all who believe in this BS of a story of his, must share the same DUMB*SS intelligence!

  17. I have seen good comments(and bad) on both sides of this story. The one no one mentions is the officer on the scene that helped the driver reported smoke coming from the car. He also reported the car wasn't bucking or acting like this was deliberate. If Toyota is covering up another problem, they certainly would not be the first multi national company to do so. If the victim? is lying, he certainly would not be the first person to try to benefit from a company's problems.

  18. When I saw this story unfolding, I said this is a hoax. Even before this, I said the whole Toyota smearing/recall thing is BS. I bought my first Toyota this past year or so. I am a GM man. I can't begin to count all the GM recalls I have been apart of in my life at now age 50. This is a witch hunt about protectionism, politics, and governmental control. Most the "Sams" of the world are looking for or creating something for attention or profit. Before you post ask, who did I work for? Get real America. Toyota/Lexus, same folks, turn out a better products than anything made at GM (Government Motors) can ever produce. I still love Chevrolet but most of the cars I ever had never lasted 20 years. I have a nissan I bought used, its a 1985, that will still be on the road 15 more years. This administration is a joke!!!! The recall needed to be the President and Congress. That will fix most of this type of problem.

  19. (Ref post #11). Last developement: Now, Toyota in Norway wants to buy back the wrecked Prius from the the owner ...
    Very interesting since this country don't have any car industry.

  20. Why is it that much of the USA adult public can't understand that the brake system on any car, even one with over 500 hp, can stop the car even with the engine at full tilt? All that needs to be done is push hard on the brake pedal. Audi went thru this in the 80's and, of course, there was no defect in the car. Just drivers with their foot on the wrong pedal.

  21. I own a Toyota Corolla and it works just fine. I think its just the American car companies are mad that their business isn't as good as Toyota's. The reason why you hear about Toyota's is because they are so popular. Every car has a recall of some sort, the reason why you don't hear it with others because American cars are less popular than Toyota's. If you look at how many people got injured or died from a Toyota auto accident with how many people drive them, it is well less than 1%. it could be a freak accident that happens to drive a Toyota. I agree with the person that said American only has that problem because I haven't heard anything in other countries. Plus, the only area i'm hearing these accidents come from are some place out west, like California.

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