Last week, a California man described how his Toyota Prius experienced spontaneous acceleration, sending him on a harrowing ride on a winding California highway at speeds up to 90 mph. Although the event didn’t cause an accident or injuries, the implications were nonetheless serious. The Prius is not part of Toyota’s recall of defective vehicles for mechanical sticking of the accelerator pedal. If the Prius turns out to be defective, it could have the consequences could be far-reaching. Not only would the approximately one million Priora in the model years 2004 to 2008 be considered for a new car recall, but every new model implicated in unexplained acceleration events raises the possibility that Toyota’s newest recall, like its earlier ones, does not fully encompass the problem. This would continue the impression that Toyota’s problems are spiraling out of control.
Perhaps to control this impression, Toyota is aggressively investigating the problem. After hearing of the event Toyota took his car, and thoroughly investigated the problem in the presence of an investigator from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a California congressman. After finishing its investigations Toyota issued a statement that the man’s “account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis.” Namely, Toyota claims:
The accelerator pedal was in working order, with no sign of mechanical entrapment
The brake override system, which shuts off the engine when the brakes are applied, even if the gas pedal is depressed, was working
The shift lever and power button were functioning as they should and could have been used to stop Prius
The brakes showed wear and damage from overheating
Computer records showed the brakes and accelerator had been applied in an on-and-off fashion
No diagnostic trouble codes in the computer
At this point, no one is claiming these results are final, and investigations are ongoing. Although one spokesman attributed wear on the brakes to “intentional misuse,” Toyota has stopped short of accusing the man of fabricating the story, although it has strongly implied it. Instead, it is focusing on the message that the Prius has safeguards that prevent it from being subject to the same defects as Camrys, Corollas, and others.
Although it does not now seem that the Prius is defective, we should note that the initial reports of Camry’s unexplained acceleration were met with a similar response from Toyota.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by a defective car, please contact the Columbus, Ohio product liability lawyers at Robert W. Kerpsack CO. LPA for a free case evaluation.