Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Are Toyota’s Problems like the Audi 5000?

Fox News has been broadcasting a sound bite from Congressional hearings concerning the allegations that Toyota cars have a sudden and unintended acceleration problem.

The teary-eyed woman related her experience in Congress when her car went out of control on a highway. Reports are coming every day of people who say their Toyota and even Luxus’ are reported to be experiencing sudden and unintended acceleration problems. Toyota has said they are trying to fix the problem, but has denied that there is a sudden and unintended acceleration problem.

Congress is investigating. The owner and CEO of Toyota Motor Co. will testify before Congress. Fingers are pointing in every direction. So what is the problem? Who is at fault?

My mind flashes back to 1985. The German luxury car, the Audi 5000, came under attack. It started with a CBS 60 Minutes piece which presented several owners saying that sudden and unintended acceleration caused the death of their loved ones. CBS even showed an Audi’s accelerator moving on its own.

However, no one ever found a problem with the Audi 5000. The 60 Minutes producers admitted that they rigged the car to depress the accelerator. However, Audi lost sales. Owners lost the re-sale values in their luxury cars, and dealerships closed.

One thing is certain. A car will not move if the brakes are held down and the accelerator depressed all the way. Brakes have more power than the engines. Click here to read an article on that subject.

The small Japanese and European cars do have pedals close together. American are accustomed to widely spaced pedals. Could that be the fault? I don’t know.

I remember my aunt used to drive with her right foot on the accelerator and her left foot on the brake. I had a girlfriend who drove the same way. Many older women in my experience do drive that way. Could that be the problem? A panicked driver depresses the accelerator but honestly believes they are pressing the brake with their right foot?

Cars were made to be driven with the right foot operating both the accelerator and the brake – one at a time!

Back in 2006 through 2009, high gasoline prices drove many people to abandoned American-made cars and purchased smaller, Japanese cars.

One thing is certain. A 5,000-pound hunk of metal powered by a 150-horsepower engine is a dangerous machine. I grew up working on around heavy machinery. My twin brother and I have a healthy respect for machinery. Rule No. 1: Never stand behind or in front of a machine. After three decades, I still respect that protocol in the garage when my wife pulls in or backs out. Same is true in a parking lot. It’s my observation, that fear or respect for machines is not universal.

If it turns out that Toyota’s problem is all driver error, will the news media report it? I doubt it. They have their story. A major Japanese automaker is on the chopping block. Goodbye Toyota.