Toyota Casts Doubts on James Sikes' Out-of-Control Prius Story


More doubt Monday about James Sikes' claims that his Toyota Prius sped out of control on a highway in California. Toyota said its testing on the car is "inconsistent" with the man's story.

Sikes claimed he could not stop his hybrid on a highway near San Diego last week, reaching speeds of 94 miles an hour before finally coming to a halt with the help of police. There were immediate claims of a hoax, which Sikes vehemently denied. But Toyota's report is apparently more evidence that there are problems with Sikes' story.

Toyota did a full battery of tests on the car. In a statement, it said the accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally and a backup safety system worked properly. The automaker said the front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating, but the rear brakes and parking break were in good condition. And the floor mat was not interfering with the gas pedal. The statement went on:

"While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver's account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis."

However, a Toyota spokesman said a self-diagnostic system did show evidence of repeated applications of the accelerator and brake pedals.

"The data from the diagnostics test indicated that the accelerator and the brake had been rapidly pressed, alternately back and forth, 250 times," Mike Michels, vice president of corporate communications for Toyota Motor Sales USA, said at a news conference.

In another test, the front brakes were replaced and then purposely overheated by continuous light application and still stopped the car.

According to Toyota, the Prius has a self-protection system that cuts engine power if the brake pedal is pressed moderately or greater. Tests found that system to be functioning. The company also said the car's push-button power switch worked normally and shut off the vehicle when pressed for three seconds, and that the shift lever worked normally and allowed neutral to be selected.

The power management computer contained no diagnostic trouble codes, and the dashboard malfunction lights were not activated, Toyota said.

Toyota's findings echo those of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which could find no mechanical problems with the car.


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