March 15th, 2010
04:57 PM ET

Toyota takes aim at California runaway Prius story

Toyota challenged a California driver's story of an out-of-control Prius at a press conference Monday afternoon in California.

A Toyota spokesman, accompanied by engineers from the automaker, detailed preliminary findings of a joint investigation conducted by Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into an incident with an alleged out-of-control Prius.

Prius owner Jim Sikes made national headlines last week with claims that his car's accelerator got stuck as he sped up to pass a car while traveling on California's I-8 highway outside of San Diego and that he was unable to stop the car.

"As I was going, I was trying the brakes ... and it just kept speeding up," he said.

Sikes story is at odds with the findings of the investigation according to Toyota and to a draft congressional memo obtained by CNN.

"While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver's account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis," Toyota said in a prepared statement.

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soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. ChrisinSTL

    I read yesterday that the brake rotors and pads had to be replaced so something was going on. I suppose he could have been standing on both the accelerator and brakes. Reminds me of the movie "Contact" where the only evidence was hours or static. As to why he didn't turn the key off, the Prius does not have a key, it uses a push button that is just a sensor that the computer program looks at every so many milliseconds, but all programs are sequential and if they get stuck in a loop, they may not always listen to the sensors when they are supposed to because they can't get to that part of the code. Even the shifter, part of the brakes and accelerator are just sensors in that car, so everything depends on the computer working perfectly.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JD

    The highway patrolman who saved this driver's life actually attested that the driver was standing on the brakes to no avail. NHTSA is currently analyzing his Prius's brakes, which show "significant wear", to see whether he was telling the truth.

    The fact that Toyotas suffer from software glitches is actually great for the company. Every single vicitm can be called a "liar", millions of dollars will be saved from potential lawsuits, and no one will be able to "recreate the problems" because it's a glitch. You can't create it at will.

    It's not like Windows XP can be crashed at will, but it does happen. That's the nature of software.

    March 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jonny

    fftower: before you call anybody else a moron, i wonder, how exactly does one "turn the key off"?

    March 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JH

    Typical human race behavior: When money is involved, think nothing else but how to get it. There are billion reasons to think it's the driver making it all up. Why didn't this guy or anyone else had such dramatic incident before recall was announced. People get blind when they see MONEY. ID channel is devoted to murderer cases and half of them are people who kill their wives/husbands without blinking for their life insurance money. Anyone see my point?

    March 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nesto


    Toyota prius dont have keys and dont require keys as long as the key fob is in the vehicle it will turn on. But Car and Driver did a test the proved braking power is way stronger than engine power.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Conspiracy

    It's an amazing thing that a few incidents can turn a once pristine company into a sinister cabal. I have a Toyota, I've had two over the past 10 years. Neither has given me any problems. My current was not on the recall list, thankfully.

    I can see how someone would use this as an opportunity to make a few bucks off a national story. In my estimation this has been a media-fueled crisis, not very much different than our Swine Flu epidemic.

    March 16, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JS

    I'm sympathetic to these complaints because my last Toyota had strange problems with the accelerator lagging at certain speeds (10mph, ~40mph), and Toyota didn't care.

    There's certainly a possibility for fraud in his story, and I also don't understand why he just didn't turn off the car sooner, but its harder to do in a push button start vehicle on a windy mountain road. Also other people with UA have reported the car just restarts itself.

    Toyota can't explain the fact;his front brakes were worn to the bare metal by the time he stopped. Also, the police officer smelled burning brakes, so this ocurred during the incident. If there's an actual scientific explanation for his fraud, I'm all ears, but his account is far from debunked at this point.

    March 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. CaptainVideo

    If this was due to a software bug, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find anything. If it were really a stuck accellerator, shifting into neutral would have stopped the car, but with a bug in the electronic controls, that may well not have worked.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CE

    There isn't a car on the road where the brakes won't override the engine at full throttle. Even if some miraculous software glitch caused the brakes to fail (although I believe they're at least partially hydraulic, even in a Prius) this guy said he was too scared to put the car in neutral, yet he had no problem talking on his cell-phone at 90 mph! The Prius has no key, but if you push the power on/off button and hold it in it will shut off. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one because he might not have tried to hold it in, but something smelled fishy about this guy's story from the moment I heard about it. A momentary element of surprise is one thing, but an out of control car that can't be stopped by the brakes for miles on end tells me this guy is either an idiot or a liar.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JD

    People can call this guy a "sensationalist" all they want, but he's not suing Toyota and not asking for any money whatsoever. Thus there's no reason to suspect he's faked the incident.

    What about the entire family that died in a Lexus last fall in San Diego when their vehicle accelerated out of control, wouldn't brake, and wouldn't shut off. Would they have been called liars had police been able to save them too?

    I distinctly remember Toyota's engineers apologizing for the electronic errors before Toyota Corp shushed them up and claimed that it was a physical, mechanical problem. They've been very cautious in front of Congress, shedding tears and offering sincere apologies for "what could be an electronics issue", but are showering the public with numerous advertisements claiming their cars are safe and do NOT suffer from electronic glitches (such as sudden acceleration).

    I'll feel easier being skeptical of these sudden acceleration incidents once Toyota decides to be honest.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Brian

    Just another person trying to cash in.. Everyone know that the brake system, in any vehicle, when fully depressed can stop your vehicle even if your giving it gas... the only way it wouldn't is if your lightly pressing the brake pedel. Thats the way the system was created and to think differently makes you a moron.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SC

    He's not suing? What's he want a new Prius and a hug?

    If you are afraid to turn your car off, like he has said, then you should be afraid to turn your car on. Send him back to Driver's Education. Maybe the 15 yr olds can teach him what to do in case of an emergency. At the very least, he'd see some cool driving movies. LOL!

    Maybe all the appearance money from his many interviews can buy him a bus pass. I wouldn't want someone like that on the road with my family and I.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sean

    This guy's claim is absolutely bogus– your brakes overpower the engine every time, especially in an underpowered Prius. If you don't believe me (or Car and Driver) try this little test- with your throttle pressed to the floor at highway speeds tap your brakes with your left foot. It doesn't require much effort to immediately start coming to a halt.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    "What a shame the driver didn't have the brains to turn the key off. What a moron!"

    Ummmmmm if you turn the car off you'll lose power steering and power braking. So watch what you recommend, and don't use the word moron so freely. I don't have high expectations of your intelligence so stop trying to act smart.

    The best and only option is to not panic and shift into neutral. Once thats done you can easily stop.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    "why didn't he plant his left foot on the emergency brake"

    This in theory seems like a good idea, however, e-brakes are not strong brakes so chances are not much will happen. Now the other flaw with this is that if the rear wheels are under heavy braking or lock up, and the driver turns the wheel a little bit he'll spin (end up backwards).

    March 17, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
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