Elizabeth James says her Prius surged out of control near Lawson, Colorado, sending her plunging into a river.
Sometimes the cars accelerate on their own. Sometimes they stop dead. Drivers of the hybrid Prius have discovered they can be an unexpected adventure. … Traffic near the mall was congested but moving, and Riner kept the Prius pegged at 60 mph, constantly looking at the console to manage her fuel consumption.
Suddenly she felt the car hydroplaning out of control, and when she glanced at the speedometer she realized the car had shot up to 84 mph. Riner wasn’t hydroplaning; quite simply, her Prius had accelerated on its own.
She pushed on the brakes but they were dead. Then just as suddenly as the car had taken off, it shut down. The console lit up with warning lights, leaving Riner fighting a stiff steering wheel as she coasted across four lanes of traffic and down an exit ramp.
The car stopped near a PetSmart parking lot, and Riner sat in disbelief, listening to fat raindrops pelt the Prius, wondering if her new car had actually gone crazy.
… Jaded Prius owners say there’s no resolution with Toyota—through their hometown dealer or corporate arbitration—and the company hasn’t lost or settled a single lawsuit concerning “unintended acceleration.” …
Toyota responded to the acceleration problem in 2007 by recalling “faulty floor mats” that the company said could cause the gas pedal to stick. Another explanation from Toyota is simple driver error.
“You get these customers that say, ‘I stood on the brake with all my might and the car just kept on accelerating.’ They’re not stepping on the brake,” says Toyota corporate spokesman Bill Kwong. “People are so under stress right now, people have so much on their minds. With pagers and cell phones and IM, people are just so busy with kids and family and boyfriends and girlfriends. So you’re driving along and the next thing you know you’re two miles down the road and you don’t remember driving, because you’re thinking about something else.”
Then there’s Kevin McGuire, who test-drove a Prius one afternoon last fall—a year after the safety recall—at Dorschel Toyota in Rochester, New York.
“There was a wait list to buy one, but they happened to have one in the showroom for me to drive,” he says. “The saleswoman was very knowledgeable on the vehicle, and I was impressed with the car. Everything seemed to be in order.”
The weather was crisp and sunny, and with the saleswoman along for the ride, McGuire drove the Prius away from the city to a hillside road without much traffic. As he recalls the conversation:
“What do you think?” the saleswoman asked.
“I like this feel,” McGuire said.
“Well, go ahead and jump on it and see what you think about the acceleration.”
McGuire stomped on the gas pedal and the Prius zipped forward, but when he took his foot off the accelerator, the car kept going faster. He turned to the saleswoman.
“This is all well and good, but there’s one problem,” McGuire told her.
“It’s not stopping.”
“Lookit, we’re still going.”
“Take your foot off the accelerator,” she told him.
McGuire hesitated to steer the car off the road, because he was slamming on the brake with all his weight and the Prius wouldn’t stop. Smoke poured from the tires, and finally the car shut down and he pulled to the shoulder.
“She was scared and I was scared, too. We just sat there for a couple of minutes and caught our breath, and then she said, ‘OK, start it up,'” McGuire says. “You could hear the engine rev up, and when I put it in drive—boom! The car took off again.” This time the car died almost immediately and McGuire pulled over again. After starting it a third time, all was OK, and he cautiously drove back to the dealership. The saleswoman asked a technician to look at the Prius.
“Oh, people put in too many floor mats,” the technician said. “So the accelerator gets stuck.”
McGuire responded, “Wait, this is not my car, this is your car. I haven’t done anything. It’s not me, there’s something wrong with this car.” Our reporting found just one person currently in litigation with Toyota concerning unintended acceleration. Art Robinson, the man involved in that 2007 crash, wouldn’t discuss the situation (saying his lawyer has advised him not to), but a Toyota spokeswoman confirmed the lawsuit, declining to comment further.
Apparently, hours after Robinson purchased his used 2005 Prius in Tacoma, the car began to handle funny, and as he was driving back to the dealership, the car took off. Robinson stomped on the brake and the emergency brake, but the car wouldn’t slow down. He exited the freeway and shot through an intersection safely, but then lost control and drove through a convenience store. Robinson escaped before the Prius and the building burst into flames.
Holy Crap. I may make my next car a Chevy Volt or something. If this happens to you in a Prius, try tapping the cruise control, even though it is not on.
ConsumerAffairs.com has collected complaints from Toyota Prius owners regarding throttle control. One, a new Prius with 600 miles on the odometer, accelerated wildly while the owner was attempting to merge onto a busy interstate. On another occasion, the traction control system (itself another problem reported on the site) kicked in and the car accelerated. A third time the car refused to slow after passing another car. One Prius owner, an engineer, discovered that tapping the lever that disengages the cruise control solved the problem– even though the cruise control system was already turned off. Toyota denies any mechanical or software problem exists. They suggest that a wadded carpet may have caused a sticky go-pedal. – autospies
Federal safety regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say they are “aware of” complaints of runaway acceleration in the popular Toyota Prius hybrid and are in a “monitoring mode.””It is currently like dozens, or maybe hundreds, of other issues of this kind,” an agency official said. The Toyota Product Communications office has not responded to several requests from ConsumerAffairs.com to discuss the issue of unintended acceleration in the Prius.
Prius owners in the meantime continue to encounter incidents of unintended acceleration with the hybrid and the Japanese automaker seems unable to remedy the problem.
In a new wrinkle, one Prius owner whose hybrid was damaged in an unintended acceleration accident reports that her Toyota dealer is unwilling to accept the Prius in trade for another vehicle, even though the hybrid is almost new. … “I called Toyota and talked to a sales person and explained this dangerous experience. He confirmed that he was familiar with the problem and also experienced this himself when driving one of the earlier models of the Prius,” Karen wrote.
No floor mats
She took the runaway Prius to her Toyota dealer and listened as the service manager blamed everything that has occurred on “nothing more than a floor carpet jamming accelerator pedal.” “As I explained to him, I didn’t have floor mats when this happened the first time,” Karen wrote. – September 10, 2007 : http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2007/09
Consumer Affairs first wrote about unintended acceleration in a Prius August 1. It had just 600 miles on the odometer but a driver was reporting problems with acceleration and the display. It won Consumer Affairs Lemon of the Week Award. August 12, Consumer Affairs is writing again about the same problem.
This time they are making more serious claims. They are saying this suggests “a serious flaw in the vehicle’s computer system, electronic controls or software program.” Now, Consumer Affairs said they reported about this last year as well. They all go to shop and technicians look into it but no one can repeat unintended acceleration or find a problem.
[Source: Consumer Affairs]