Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Braking News

Bill Cosby used to do a bit about UFOs. He was curious as to why they always landed in rural areas and met backwoods types who had fewer teeth than fingers. Why didn't they land in the middle of New York City or in a football stadium? What logic would conclude from such events is that they are made up because there are few witnesses and as such, it became one person's word against ... well, nobody.
The opposite could also be true. Yesterday, so we are told...
EL CAJON, Calif. The government sent investigators Tuesday to examine a Prius that sped out of control on a California freeway, and Toyota said it wanted to interview the driver as the besieged automaker dealt with a high-profile new headache that raised questions about the safety of its beloved hybrid.
A day after state troopers helped the car slow to a stop and its driver to emerge unharmed, Toyota could shed no new light on what might have gone wrong. The Prius is not part of Toyota's vast recall of gas pedals that can become stuck, but it is covered by an earlier recall of floor mats that can catch the accelerator.
If you wanted to perpetrate a fraud on a major corporation, you wouldn't do it on a rural interstate highway where you could go for hours without running into anything. You would do it on a highway in California where there is helicopter surveillance and Highway Patrol cars cruising the interstate. Otherwise, how could you make people believe that something that we are told happens a lot (a stuck Toyota accelerator) happened? You'd need video proof and a bunch of police officers to back up your story. Genius, I say. Even better than the UFO sightings.
James Sikes, 61, was identified in a 2006 newspaper story as a real estate executive and longtime lottery player who won $55,000 and was selected to appear on a California Lottery TV game show. He appeared at a news conference quickly after the freeway incident Monday and also spoke to reporters Tuesday at his Toyota dealership, where his car was towed.
Of course he appeared at a news conference. How else to convince us that his story was not made up? If it's on TV, it must be real. Congratulations to Mr. Sikes for figuring out how to cash in on the latest consumer scare. He's 61 years old, and probably needs one big payoff in order to retire comfortably to Florida or someplace where UFOs routinely land. The Toyota Lottery.
He said he called 911 about 1:30 p.m. Monday after accelerating to pass another car on Interstate 8 near La Posta.
"I pushed the gas pedal to pass a car and it did something kind of funny. ... It jumped and it just stuck there," he said. A patrol car pulled alongside the Prius and the officer told Sikes over a loudspeaker to push the brake pedal to the floor and apply the emergency brake.
The braking, coupled with a steep incline on the freeway, slowed the car to about 50 mph. Sikes said he then shut off the engine and the car coasted to a stop. CHP Officer Todd Neibert then moved his car in front of the Prius to block it.
Of course, it did something kind of funny - that's what Toyota's are supposed to do, right? Just like they told us. Pretty nifty trick to dial 911 while your car is careening out of control on the highway, too. And, nobody ever would have thought to take the key out. Don't be ridiculous. Wait until the highway patrol shows up and have them yell it to you through a loudspeaker. After all, he must have been in a Hell of a panic, what with having to dial the phone and all. I guess he could have only taken the key out once the car got below 60mph.
The runaway Prius only makes matters worse for Toyota's image problem, said Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management in Louisville, Ky. — even if video only showed the aftermath, with Prius resting behind the patrol car.
"People are going to see this video and assume they've seen the car out of control," he said. "They really haven't seen the car out of control. It doesn't matter if they think they did. It's planted in their heads. That part of the damage is done."
The Sikes family received a recall notice and took the Prius to Toyota of El Cajon about two weeks ago, but the dealership refused to examine the car, saying it was not on the recall list, Patty Sikes said.
Uh-huh. Won't recall my car, eh? I'll show you!
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent two investigators to examine the car, a government spokeswoman said. Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Brian Lyons said the automaker is sending three of its own technicians to investigate.
I hope they bring their bullshit detectors.


susan said...

BOy, when I lived in LA you were lucky to get to 45 miles per hour on the freeway. Too many cars...

To this day I cannot figure out how they got the freeway cleared for OJ's famous chase.

Firestarter5 said...

I wonder if he thinks Toyota will give him a new car?

Anthony said...

That's why I included the part about the Lottery TV show. I think he's a weasel.
The Pruis wasn't on the recall list, which is why Toyota wouldn't look at it for him. Its issue is the gas pedal getting stuck under the floor mat, which he said didn't happen.
Definitely smells.

susan said...

Anthony - there are some neat videos trying to explain this guys' actions by Consumerist-


There is something not kosher with this story....

Anthony said...

I know in my gut that it ain't Kosher. Something about my personal Bullshit Detector went off on this one.
The Prius wasn't on the original recall list, which is why the dealer wouldn't look at it. People want to glom onto any popular notion and try to capitalize from it. That's why I included the bio about him being a Lottery TV contestant. He's a weasel.

Personally, I'd buy a Toyota tomorrow. Especially because I figure I could get a great deal on one!

I would have guessed if I put a car into neutral with the accelerator pressed, the engine would rev so high that it would blow. Try it on your car. get it up to about 40, leave your foot on the accelerator and put it in "N". The engine will rev way up. I'd just turn the key and shut the engine off and coast to a stop.

One story said the guy was on 911 for 23 minutes. I hope Toyota wins this one.