Toyota is the new Audi

;The NHTSA's results are in... and guess who caused those runaway Toyotas? Yep, the same evil people who caused the runaway Audi 5000s. Was it Satan worshipers? Hexes? Voodoo dolls? Possessed computers?

No. It was the driver. Quelle surprise.

;I hate to say "I told you so," but I did. The second the violence erupted over the accusations of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, I called BS. And that was before I heard the outrageous and totally impossible testimony from Mrs. Rhonda Smith.

(If you've forgotten about that hair-raising testimony, search for "rhonda smith testifies" on YouTube. Mrs. Smith recounts a deeply horrifying story about her Lexus accelerating out of control to over 100 mph. It sounds scary, but what she described is, from an engineering standpoint, not even possible*. And worse, even if it was accelerating out of control, she called her husband to say hi instead of trying to turn the damn car off. Perhaps she called her friends, too? Her pastor? Her hairdresser? Who knows. Next time, she needs to call me. I'll say "um, turn the car off, okay?")

* For various reasons. The most damning of them is: Mrs. Smith insists that she shifted her "possessed" ES350 into all possible gears, including neutral and reverse. Toyota's non-hybrid vehicles use a physical connection between the shifter and the transmission. Even if the cars' computers were hell-bent on killing its passengers, engaging neutral or park would open a valve that dumps the hydraulic pressure in the transmission, immediately releasing the gear--regardless of what the computer is telling it to do. The dump valve neuters the computer and immediately severs the connection between engine and wheels. I've tried it. It's instantaneous. My guess is that, in her panic, Mrs. Smith inadvertently threw the shifter into the manual gate, so pressing up and down meant she was asking for gearchanges, not engaging neutral, reverse, or park. Regardless, she sold the '07 ES350 to some poor unsuspecting couple, who thankfully had no problems with it. In fact, they got Big Time lucky, as NHTSA bought it from them (to test) at the full price of a new one. And to date, no problems have been found with it.

Anyway, I extend my full condolences to the families and friends of anyone hurt in any automobile accident. But we need to recognize that sometimes, it's the driver at fault.

Today, I read that NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, examined the computers in 58 Toyota cars accused of unintended acceleration. The results are in:

35 cars: the driver didn't apply the brakes at all

14 cars: the driver applied "partial" brakes

; 8 cars: the driver applied the brakes, but only at the "last second" before impact.


35 + 14 + 8 = 58 cars total. Wait! So that means in every case, the driver is at fault for not stopping the car. Wow.

I've had a throttle stick wide open on me... at age 20, in a car with a big ol' 6.9-liter V-8 screaming under the hood. It was horrifying. But I threw the car in neutral, turned off the ignition, and breathed deep. Start to finish? Maybe a second. I've also had my fair share of experience being told I was imagining things by a Toyota dealer. That was frustrating as hell, and I solved that problem by filing a Lemon Law claim and eventually proving I was right.

Now, 6 months into this Toyota PR disaster, we still have no proof. The only evidence we're seeing is that the drivers are at fault. (Remember the lady in Westchester, NY, who said her boss' Prius took off out of control while she was driving it? Yeah, NHTSA read her computer too: the poor dear had her foot on the floor. Too bad it was the gas pedal she was pressing on.)

Back to the point: learn how to operate your machinery, folks. If someone bought a chainsaw, didn't read the instruction manual, and cut their hand off, should the manufacturer be liable? I sure hope not. We all treat cars like they're toys, but they're heavy, powerful, and potentially dangerous pieces of equipment--and we should know how to operate them. And by that I don't mean differentiating between hitting the gas and the brake--we all make mistakes. I'm talking about knowing what to do in case something like that does happen. Mechanical failures are always a possibility. Know how to put your vehicle in neutral; know how to turn it off. Know how to apply the brakes properly. Know how to use your emergency brake (whether it's a hand lever, foot lever, or - and here's the next lawsuit waiting to happen - just a button.)

I literally almost cried when I heard the audio recording of the 911 call from the runaway Lexus with off-duty officer Saylor at the wheel. Seriously. Chills and everything. I never want to hear another call like that. I hope another call like that never happens. But whose fault was it?

Sorry to say, it's the responsibility of the driver to know how to operate his machinery. I once got a ticket for speeding in a car I borrowed. The speedometer was inaccurate due to its owner putting the wrong size tires (by a country mile, mind you) on it. The speedo said 69, I was doing; 77. I proved this by going to a state-run speedometer testing facility. The judge found me guilty anyway - she said it's the responsibility of the driver to ensure that the vehicle is in good working order - even if it's a borrowed car that you've been in for 10 seconds. Same applies to burned out bulbs - as the driver, it's your responsibility to make sure they work. And the same applies to that horrible, horrible crash. Not even the police officer knew how to put the car into neutral or switch it off. And that's even more upsetting than that hair-raising phone call.

Apparently, the witch hunt against the Audi 5000 didn't teach us a lesson. It's easy to blame other people, but sometimes it's your own fault. Sure, Toyota made some big PR mistakes here. But it appears that the biggest mistakes were made by the drivers of its cars.

So will everyone please leave Toyota alone now? Instead of watching videos of implausible testimonies and cursing the Big Evil Toyota, go and read your car's owner's manual and educate yourself on how to operate your car. Then, go somewhere safe and practice emergency ABS stops. See what happens if you throw your car in neutral under full throttle. Or press both pedals at the same time. Or turn it off while you're driving.

Just don't come back here and blame me if you crash the thing while trying. If you crash, it's your own damn fault.

Oops. My bad. I was thinking of the British Comet, not the Lockheed Electra, in the example below.
There are two main differences between Audi and Toyota: 1. If I recall correctly, no one ever died in an Audi as a result of its unintended acceleration problems (I could be wrong) 2. Audi does not have a history of covering up negative stories in the press, while Toyota does Regarding #2, remember, this is what the most recent fines levied against Toyota were for: not for the defects, but for deceiving the U.S. gov't and attempting to cover up safety problems with vehicles sold in the U.S. even while they were notifying consumers in Japan and Europe. If you go back and look at how Toyota has handled all their problems, from the engine sludging issue to the bad transmissions in 6 cyl. Camrys & Avalons, they always follow the same pattern. If they had been up front about these problems and not attempted to hide them, there probably wouldn't have been thr huge public outcry. I'm not saying Toyota has behaved any worse than any other company, necessarily. I am saying the natural knee-jerk reaction of "blame the driver" is unfair and often turns out to be unjustified. In practically instance, whenever there is a major defect in a company's cars-- like the exploding gas tanks in Pintos, for example-- the first reaction of the company is to point the finger at the driver. To reveal my age, back in the 1950's, there were a number of horrific air crashes involving a new (for that time) airplane known as the Lockheed Electra. Every one of those crashes was investigated by competent investigators and the verdict was the same: pilot error. Until one day an engineer discovered the real reason behind the crashes: something known as "metal fatigue." It turned out that the metal around the square windows of the Electra was cracking and rupturing due to the repeated compression and decompression of the cabin. This phenomenon was unknown prior to the Electra (and is the reason we don't have square windows in jets today). In my opinion, there may be an unknown phenomenon at work in the electronics of today's cars (not just Toyota's). Regarding the case in San Diego that pretty much started this, I find it amazing that all the defenders of Toyota assume that the officer who died in the Lexus did none of the obvious things, like trying to put the car in neutral, turning it off, etc. Does the author of this piece think that Saylor was an idiot? If not, why does he seem to think none of these things would occur to the officer? Witnesses to that event say they saw the car pull over to the side of the road, as if the driver was attempting to stop it, and then lurch forward again. Others report actual flames visible in the wheelwells around the tires. These people were in that car for at least 10 minutes prior to making the 911 call (which itself lasted at least 2 minutes). While I find it believable that someone could make a momentary mistake and accidentally depress the gas instead of the brake for a few seconds, it is totally inconceivable to me that they couldn't recognize their mistake for 15 minutes.
Update 2/8/11: "U.S. probe finds no defect in Toyota's electronic throttles" Heh, told ya!
Toyota's are unreliable cars...I worked at Toyota for 7 years,I know !!Millions of sludged engines..Lexus engines that self destruct.. Bad transmissions.. Bad welds..Cracking side glass..Bad camshafts..Rusting frames..Bad steering..Cracking tailgates..Random excelleration(not fixed,not drivers fault)Many,many more major issues with them..Wow ! Who could ask for anything more !! Trust me,Toyota's are lemons !!
b_cooper, how DARE you compare the artistic genius of Alfa Romeo, maker of pure-sex-on-wheels machines, with the soulless purveyor of perfectly mundane machines that is Toyota?(Hey Farmer0904, still think I'm on Toyota's payroll? If I was, I won't be the second they read that last paragraph! And I still maintain people need to learn how to drive and take responsibility for their own actions. So there.) ;)
Toyta is the new alfa romeo :D
Um no offense Farmer but that's ridiculous. Now I'm going to say it outright before stupidity ensues. I work for a Toyota/Scion Dealership. So there's no speculation. Now I've read on many occasions, many articles. And all articles, weather pro Toyota or not, will always have a level of bias. But, does that make EVERYONE who writes in favor of Toyota "on their payroll?" I highly doubt that. Automobile mag is reporting information that a LOT of other News sources are reporting. So are they ALL paid by Toyota? Or are YOU someone who works for a competing manufacturer, who has or MUST shoot down Toyota? SHAME on YOU for saying something that is unproven. And so you know I work for a dealership, I don't get paid by Toyota. So don't try to pull stuff like I get paid by Toyota. Yes it IS in my best interest that Toyota is found not responsible. But let me let you in on a little something. I've been with my dealership for 7 years. There are no signs of Toyota suffering from this "witch hunt" And guess what...They're not going anywhere. PROVE to us the Toyota's are dangerous cars, other than driving one into someone purposely. You can't. You know why? You spout whatever drivel for whatever reason, with NO information to back you. Did you have a Toyota? What problems did you have with it? Nothing, I bet. I bet you didn't even have a Toyota. You probably have never had any experience with a Toyota except for maybe a used beater which, more than likely, had issues, but most-likely due to poor maintenance, or from previous damage. Just like your "opinion" about Toyotas. And it IS just that, YOUR opinion. You have NO proof that proves that Toyotas are dangerous. Toyota's are like knives or hammers. They can be dangerous, but only in the wrong hands. Ok I've ranted enough.
I disagree, automobile mag is paid by Toyota and has always been on Toyota's payroll .it was on the news and 23 cars could not stop...shame on you for lying here. Toyota's are dangerous cars and the Danial only serves to make them more dangerous !
Agree with Automobile Mag, this has gotten very old. The lawyers CLAIM, it's the electronics, funny didn't know Lawyers had engineering degrees, think they just smell MONEY, lawyers get a lot of money for a class action lawsuit!! The government now tells us there is no problem, only that some people shouldn't be operating a vehicle, nothing new, but the lawyers say "well, that just can't be". What a three ring circus - lawyers, the press and the congressional hearings, unbelievable spectacle of misrepresentation.
Thank you for writing this.
I agree with everything said. Too many people rely on AAA or excuses. Back in the day, you either changed your own tire, or you frakkin walked. If the oil light comes on, CHANGE YOU FREAKIN OIL!, Everyone gets all freaked out at the smallest thing, which explains ALL traffic in the world. The only time there will be zero problems is when we have cars that drive themselves or quality mass transit nationwide (you know, like EVERY OTHER COUNTRY!!!)
I agree with everything said (except for the 35+14+8=58 thing.. as socal_ty said, its 57, not 58). Toyota was wrongfully blamed for the problems. It really shows that some people really need to be educated on their vehicles. Its scary knowing that there are people on the road who don't know how to operate their car.
There's one thing I don't understand. The complaint was that the computer had some kind of malfunction which caused the throttle to be stuck at full, right?So they investigated the problem by *asking the computer which was supposedly broken?**IF* the problem was with the computer incorrectly recording the levels of throttle and brake, looking at the computer's report isn't going to tell you anything you didn't already know - basically that the computer thought the throttle was on and the brake was off.Now, I think it is clear that there are a lot of stupid drivers out there, and there's a lot of other evidence to prove that they were at fault (for example knowing that the neutral position is a physical cut-off) - I just don't understand why the computer logs are usable as evidence when it's the computer logs which are being disputed.
I'm truely surprised at the media and the witch hunt. Looked up NHTSA complaints over the past 10 years, gee wiz, GM and Ford were neck and neck for the entire 10 year period with 5xs more compalints in unattended acceleration cases than Toyota, that is until the Media Frenzy. Why aren't we looking at GM and Ford, where's NHTSA, oops, the US goverment owns GM (bad accounting by GM, tax payers got a raw deal) and Chrysler, sorry! It's about time to call it quits, get the lawyers back in check an move on, maybe investigate GM and Ford for the past 10 years. I agree with Automobile, enough! By the way, read some of the NHTSA complaints, proof that you can't fix stupid, oh my!
And yet, they recalled and "fixed" millions of cars...
35 + 14 + 8 = 57 not 58
Actually, from what I've seen, Toyota's unintended acceleration rate isn't unusually high. It was mid-pack, if I remember correctly.
If not faulty electronics, then apparently Toyota has a faulty pedal design that confuses experienced drivers overwhelmingly-more-often than other vehicle makes. Either way, Toyota has some 'splainin to ***
AMEN, Interesting I haven't heard not one word about this on the local news. Being the owners (including wife) of a 08 Toyota and Lexus the issues were very disappointing, but to hear this as i had already speculated why or how could a person let the car accelerate 100+ and not try to do anything but to pickup a cell phone look down to dial 911. Look a I feel bad for everyone involved in terrible accidents, but a little common sense is in order here too.

New Car Research

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles