SAN DIEGO - Toyota Motor Corp. dismissed the story of a man who claimed his Prius sped out of control on the California freeway, saying yesterday that its own tests found the car's gas pedal and backup safety system were working just fine.
The automaker stopped short of saying James Sikes had staged a hoax last week but said his account did not square with a series of tests it conducted on the gas-electric hybrid. "We have no opinion on his account, what he's been saying, other than that the scenario is not consistent with the technical findings," spokesman Mike Michels told a news conference.
The episode March 8 was among the highest-profile headaches Toyota has suffered in recent months. It recalled more than 8 million cars and trucks worldwide because gas pedals can become stuck or be snagged by floor mats. Dozens of Toyota drivers have reported problems even after their cars were supposedly fixed.
In Sikes' case, Toyota said it found he rapidly pressed the gas and brakes back and forth 250 times, the maximum amount of data that the car's self-diagnostic system can collect. That appears to contradict Sikes' statement, backed by the California Highway Patrol, that he was frantically slamming the brakes.
Toyota officials said they believed Sikes was hitting the pedals lightly, which would have prevented the brake-override system from kicking in.
The company had no explanation for discrepancies with Sikes' account but confirmed the brakes were overheated and the pads worn. Bob Waltz, vice president of product, quality and service support, said the front brakes were "metal to metal." Toyota said it believes a CHP officer's account that he smelled burning brakes while guiding Sikes on the freeway.
"That is the puzzling aspect of this," Michels said. - AP