Early last week, we reported on a Toyota Prius that seemed to surge out of control as its owner, James Sikes, was driving it down a highway near San Diego. The details of the story seemed believable enough, after all, Toyota has been facing a federal probe after numerous complaints of unintended acceleration incidents. These reports arose from owners of the popular Camry and Prius models. Some highly publicized incidents that resulted in fatalities and even prison terms have fueled the fire. Now, suspicion has been raised as to the validity of Sikes’ story. As you might recall, Sikes dialed 911 in the midst of the incident and a dispatcher was able to get a CHP officer on scene. Although Sikes was instructed numerous times on the phone to put the car in neutral, which would keep the engine from powering the wheels, it remains unclear whether he did as he was told. Sikes was able to stop the car after reportedly shutting down the engine once it was slowed to 55 mph. The officer swerved his patrol car in front of the Prius to help dissipate any of its remaining momentum.
According to the Associated Press, when federal investigators attempted to duplicate the symptoms Sikes reported in his Prius, they were unable to cause an engine surge. This is not to say that the case can be conclusively closed. Toyota has been unable to cause the surge in just about every experiment they’ve tried. Further, they are denying that the brake wear is indicative of constant breaking. This is despite the fact that the officer on scene reported smelling obviously overheated brakes.
TMZ.com also questioned Sikes’ credibility this week stating the man might have financial interest in faking the incident. They cited a failed business venture as well as some financial problems Sikes’ had in the past.
What we know for sure is that Toyota purposely covered up an obvious problem that was fatal in some situations. It doesn’t seem likely that Sikes is lying. Perhaps it’s just convenient that his background may be indicative of alterior motives. Until a real investigation gets underway, which as most would agree should involve examining the ECU (engine control computer), reports of this nature will continue to flood in. Toyota has undoubtedly tarnished its image somewhat with these runaway cars, but continuing to deny that there is any electronic failure in these cars is not the way to go about things.