Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Foot-on-Pedal Disease Spreading

First it was just the gasoline-powered Toyotas that were succumbing to Foot-on-Pedal Disease. However, it appears the virus has spread, now infecting the hybrid Prius too. Efforts to stop the proliferation have failed, which undoubtedly means the illness will strike vehicles made by other manufacturers. Experts believe the vehicles most at risk are those built by foreign manufacturers.

Ford and GM seem immune, which has baffled automotive experts. What factors account for the absence of Foot-on-Pedal disease among domestic car-makers? No one yet knows. But the answer may be in the hands of Congress, which has the power to force Toyota to undertake costly rehabilitation, while exempting the domestic companies from the painful expenses.

Curiously, Toyota engineers have failed to identify the cause of Foot-on-Pedal Disease. But Congress has concluded the fault lies in the Japanese software in the gas-pedal mechanism.

Toyota Reviewing U.S. Report of Prius With Stuck Gas Pedal

March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., struggling to regain a reputation for quality after unintended acceleration forced millions of vehicle recalls, will investigate a report in California of a Prius hybrid car that sped out of control.

The Japanese carmaker learned that the California Highway Patrol was dispatched after a Prius driver in San Diego County called 911 to report a stuck accelerator pedal, Toyota said yesterday on its Web site. A patrol car “slowed in front of the vehicle and acted as a brake to bring it to a stop,” the company said, citing the police report.

“I was on the brakes pretty healthy,” James Sikes, the Prius driver, said on NBC after telling news organizations his car reached speeds of 90 mph on U.S. Interstate 8 outside San Diego. “It wasn’t stopping. It wasn’t doing anything to it. It just kept speeding up.”

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, has recalled about 8 million cars and trucks, including top-selling Camry and Corolla cars, to repair defects that may cause unintended acceleration. The carmaker held a press briefing at its U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California, yesterday to rebut a test of its electronic throttle control system cited in testimony to Congress as a possible cause for the flaw.

Sikes told cable channel CNN the accelerator was stuck and wouldn’t move even when he tried to lift it by hand. The car failed to slow down even after Sikes called 911 and followed instructions to get the car to stop.

A California Highway Patrol officer, alerted by emergency dispatchers, caught up to Sikes and, using his public-address system, asked him to apply the emergency brake and brake pedal at the same time. That worked to slow the car to 50 mph. Then Sikes was able to turn off the ignition, he told CNN.

‘Won’t Drive Car’

“I won’t drive that car again, period,” Sikes said on NBC.

The model in San Diego “appears to be a second-generation Prius” and not the 2010 model, said Brian Lyons, a spokesman for the automaker. Three Toyota technicians are prepared to inspect the vehicle once it is located, he said.

Sikes had recently serviced the Prius at a local dealer and was informed it wasn’t part of a recall, he told NBC.

Toyota in November recalled 2004 through 2009 model-year Prius hybrids to reshape accelerator pedals that the company said could be entrapped by floor mats. The 2010 model has also been recalled so its braking software could be adjusted.


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