Unintended Acceleration Or Intended Defamation?

Toyotas are safe to drive, says a government report.  Duh.  Some of us were skeptical from the start.  Like stories of mass animal deaths, weather anomalies, and Bigfoot, this one makes its rounds every few years.

Nevermind that investigation after investigation has turned up virtually no credibility for the claim that cars accelerate unintentionally.  Believers are believers and always will be, no matter what the evidence.

One has to wonder, though, why the government was so quick to jump on Toyota so viciously.  It could be because that’s their job as they see it–to protect us from events that happen about as often as Willie Nelson gets a hair cut.  I wonder, though, if this time there was an ulterior motive.

As I recall, this all came about soon after the government took a large stake in U.S. car manufacturers.  It wouldn’t do for them to force the rest of us into being part owners and then lose money now, would it?

Is it just barely possible that the hullabaloo was driven at least in part by the desire to do damage to the government’s main competitor?  Of course, I have no evidence of such a thing, and it would be hard to prove without some “smoking gun” kind of revelation.

Maybe the lesson is this: We do not and should not trust the government to be honest.  The next time they tell us the sky is falling, we should look up to check ourselves.








About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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3 Responses to Unintended Acceleration Or Intended Defamation?

  1. sally lacy says:

    Hi Terry, Had to write on this one as I was a very satisfied toyota corrola owner for years. Got smashed on the bridge, bought another that I drove for several more years. As I was leaving the toyota dealership one day after getting an oil change, I was pulling out on the street when this happened to me. I’ve got to tell you it was pretty terrifying. It was right before Christmas and I was supposed to turn on to the main road in front of a mall. There was a lot of traffic. I was standing up in the car with my foot slammed into my brake. I wasn’t thinking very straight, and just focused on getting back into the dealership-they were only a block away now. I had to turn around in the mall parking lot. The way I was driving was letting slightly off the brake and jerking forward, then braking again. The whole time my engine was revving like it was going to explode. The dealership had recently remodeled and had an entire glass front entrance that raised to let you in. I was looking at that glass front thinking please don’t let me smash through it. Dave, who worked the front desk and usually did my paperwork, heard/saw me returning. They got the doors up and several guys ran out to my car. I had my window down and was freaking about how I was going to get out of it. I was constantly moving, but as soon as I let my foot off the brake I’d be shooting forward. I’m still standing on the brake. Dave reached in and turned the keys in the ignition, turning the car off. (Okay, that’s the part where I felt really stupid. I could have avoided the last really terrifying few minutes and just been sitting at the edge of their lot this whole time.)

    They whisked it back into a stall and when they returned it to me, they told me that they thought a leaf had been sucked into one of the intake valves, causing the motor to rev like that. I was pretty shaken, and didn’t think until later that if something had been sucked into a valve like that, wouldn’t it have cut off oxygen and killed the motor? Not sure, don’t have a mechanical bone in my body, but I always wondered. About a year later they started coming out with reports in the news on this.

    I haven’t read the new report out, but your comment that “they’re safe to drive” I assume refers to current cars rolling off the assembly lines. I think the old ones, 999,000/1,000,000 times, were safe to drive as well. I had driven a toyota for years. I’ll always wonder if the guys that worked on my car that day already knew of similar reports and sent me back out with a bogus excuse. I had had the same guys work on my cars for years, and I don’t want to believe this, but it’s in the back of my mind. I similarly wonder, if it was an honest mistake that day and they’d never heard of such a thing, when the reports came out later, did a one of them remember that that had happened at a car at their dealership and add it to the stats? I do assume whatever the problem was, it’s now fixed. The fact that it happened so sporadically would, I think, be a diagnositic nightmare. Never happened again to me, but it was often in the back of my mind.

    I take different lessons from this episode than you do from the news accounts. I think that when there is a profit to be made, one will cover his/her ass, no matter what the potential cost may be to others, to protect his/her assets. Since so many toyotas and parts are manufactured here, I think your govt. conspiracy musing is off base. Although, as you say, it was a rare occurrence, (one time in probably 15 years of driving toyotas) I had thoughts long after the occurrence of what might have happened that day. There were people standing at the corner waiting for the light to change to cross over to the mall. One mannerly man (in a car) tried to let me go in front of him, but I knew I needed a wide radius to take the turn at the speed I’d be taking it, it was the Christmas season for Christ’s sake and the mall parking lot was jammed on a weekday morning… I had much to be thankful for that day.

    The muscles in my right leg were sore for awhile. I occassionally engaged in that useless but hard to avoid “what if” thinking. Haven’t thought of it in awhile, but as I sit here typing, notice how tight my chest is, I just feel tense. I will say I thought my toyotas were quality cars. I do not villify the company for what happened. We rely on technology and technology is going to develop glitches, some potentially deadly. They have a plant in Georgetown,KY, which I hope does well. However, I do drive a Kia now.


    • Terry Noel says:

      First I am glad you were not hurt. Second, your decision to switch to Kia makes me think of something I do. You and I both know that the chances of another Toyota doing that to you are nearly zero. But so are the chances of having your finger pulled off by getting your ring hung on something. It happened to my father while we were at Centre and to this day I will not put on a ring.


      • Deb S. says:

        I had a childhood friend who lost a finger that way. Got her ring caught on the top of a chain-link fence she was climbing. It was so scary and sad, she was a younger friend… about 10 years old when it happened. The neighbors were troopers, too… someone picked up her finger and iced it while waiting for emergency services, but her finger couldn’t be saved.

        I don’t climb fences.


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