Planet Gore

The Show Must Go On

The Toyota Tort Circus now includes 61-year-old James Sikes, whose alleged runaway Prius last week ran stole the headlines from Toyota engineers’ exposure — just one day earlier — of ABC’s fraudulent report alleging runaway Toyota Avalons. Toyota’s engineers were back at the mike again Monday gamely trying to rationalize irrational tort claims (Sikes lawyer says his client is a victim of “ghosts in the machine”).

But behind the clowns, the Sikes circus revealed two truths.
1.) Congress’ brake override “fix” is irrelevant.
After two weeks of Congressional hearings, Washington pols had seized on a silver bullet to solve “instant acceleration”: A mandate that all cars come with a “brake-override” system that shuts off the accelerator when the brake is applied. But, though most Toyotas do not have brake-override, the Prius Sikes was driving does. As Automotive News reports: “Toyota said a brake override in the Prius would have cut engine power to the vehicle had the driver applied ‘moderate’ pressure on the brake pedal.” So much for silver bullets. Driver error anyone?
2.) The tort-enabling media has already made up its mind.
Despite a history (accelerating Audis, exploding GM trucks, accelerating Jeeps) of false-alarm “ghost in the machine” scares, the tort-friendly media always comes to the same conclusion: The corporation did it. Cue Harry Smith on CBS Early Show, whose guest was Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) trying to explain the inconsistencies — and possible human error — behind Mr. Sikes’s claims.
“Does this giant corporation need your help to defend it?” Smith growled at Issa. Driver error? Stick to the script, dammit.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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