It hasn’t been splashed all over the front pages or the subject of unending discussion on the cable news shows, nevertheless Toyota has been found not guilty of manufacturing cars that go speeding off on their own. The NHTSA says now that “pedal misapplication” was the culprit.
Government investigators have rejected claims that electronic defects caused Toyota cars and trucks to accelerate out of control, a finding released Tuesday that offers a measure of long-awaited vindication for the world’s largest automaker and shifts blame to the drivers who reported the incidents.
The report, based on work by NASA engineers, deflates accusations by drivers suing Toyota that mysterious electronic glitches instigated the episodes of runaway cars. It also supports the industry trend of entrusting critical engine operations to ever more sophisticated electronics and microprocessors.
“The jury is back, the verdict is in,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said during a sometimes defiant news conference. “There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas. Period.”
You might recall that at the height of the furor the CEO of Toyota was ridiculed by a Congressional committee, the company was forced to recall over 8 million vehicles and fined in excess of $48 million. The Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, went so far as to recommend that anyone who owned a Toyota should stop driving it forthwith.
According to the WSJ that same LaHood could not bring himself to use the term “driver error” at a press conference revealing the findings of his department’s investigation. Evidently the euphemism “pedal misapplication”, in his mind at least, doesn’t reflect quite so badly on his incompetence.
None of this is a surprise. I wrote about it last August and many others have noted the same things that I did. Specifically, that incidents of sudden acceleration dating back to the Audi faux-scares always result from drivers stepping on the gas when they thought they were braking. That reality, however, hasn’t and probably never will dissuade the political class from attempting to score political points the next time someone rams their car into the back of their garage and some lawyer starts beating the drum about unsafe cars in an effort to gin up some product liability suits.