• Mar 15th 2010 at 4:27PM
  • 62
Toyota walked a fine line this afternoon when it revealed that its own two-day investigation of last week's runaway Prius near San Diego, CA had reached the same conclusion as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's investigation. That is, the brakes on Jim Sikes' 2008 Toyota Prius should have been able to stop the car. Toyota did not, however, go so far as to call Sikes a liar.

The investigation determined that the front brake pads were worn so far down from overheating that the rotors were scraping the pads' metal backings. According to investigators, this could have only happened if the brake pedal were applied lightly (less than 50% or so) for an extended period of time, not pressed firmly to the floor as Sikes claimed he was doing. Only by "dragging" the brakes lightly could they become so overheated and worn, as firmly pressing the brake pedal while the car is accelerating would engage the brake override system that cuts engine power.

Though asked repeatedly if they had concluded that Sykes was lying, representatives for Toyota insisted that was not their judgment to make and they could only say that the investigation's findings were not consistent with the scenario that Sikes describes.

Follow the jump for Toyota's official statement in which it details all eight points of its findings.

[Source: Toyota]
Show full PR text
Toyota Offers Preliminary Findings From Technical Field Examination of Alleged 'Runaway Prius' in San Diego

• Toyota Engineers Conclude Two Days of Investigation

• Driver's Account Of Event Inconsistent With Initial Findings

SAN DIEGO, Calif., March 15, 2010---At a press conference today, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc. offered key preliminary findings of technical field examination and testing that were performed on March 10 and 11 regarding an alleged "runaway Prius" event dramatically covered by national news media.

Toyota engineers completed an investigation of the 2008 Prius driven by Mr. James Sikes that was the subject of a 911 emergency call on Monday, March 8. The driver reported that the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, the accelerator pedal was stuck, and that the vehicle was out of control and could not be stopped. The emergency operator repeatedly instructed the driver to shift the car into neutral and turn off the power button.

A California Highway Patrol officer intercepted the vehicle and instructed the driver to press firmly on the brakes, apply the emergency brake and turn off the car, at which time the Prius came to a safe stop.

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.

Toyota engineers employed data download/analysis, static and dynamic testing as well as thorough inspections of all relative components. In addition, they retraced the reported driving route taking into account driving time and accounts from the 911 recording.

The investigation revealed the following initial findings:
  • The accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally with no mechanical binding or friction. It should be noted that the Prius is not subject to a recall for sticking accelerator pedals and the Prius component is made by a different supplier than the one recalled.
  • The front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating. The rear brakes and parking brake were in good condition and functional.
  • A Toyota carpeted floor mat of the correct type for the vehicle was installed but not secured to the retention hooks. It was not found to be interfering or even touching the accelerator pedal.
  • The pushbutton power switch worked normally and shut the vehicle off when depressed for 3 seconds as the 911 operator advised Mr. Sikes to do.
  • The shift lever also worked normally and neutral could be selected. The neutral position is clearly marked and can be easily engaged by moving the lever left to the "N" marking.
  • There were no diagnostic trouble codes found in the power management computer, nor was the dashboard malfunction indicator light activated. The hybrid self-diagnostic system did show evidence of numerous, rapidly repeated on-and- off applications of both the accelerator and the brake pedals.
  • After examination of individual components, the front brakes were replaced and the vehicle was test driven, during which the vehicle was observed to be functioning normally.
  • During testing, the brakes were purposely abused by continuous light application in order to overheat them. The vehicle could be safely stopped by means of the brake pedal, even when overheated.

The Prius braking system uses both conventional hydraulic friction brakes and a regenerative braking system which switches the electric drive motors into brakes to generate electricity.

The system features a sophisticated self- protection function which cuts engine power if moderate brake pedal pressure is applied and the accelerator pedal is depressed more than approximately 50 percent, in effect providing a form of "brake override."

This function, which is intended to protect the system from overload and possible damage, was found to be functioning normally during the preliminary field examination.

Toyota engineers believe that it would be extremely difficult for the Prius to be driven at a continuous high speed with more than light brake-pedal pressure, and that the assertion that the vehicle could not be stopped with the brakes is fundamentally inconsistent with basic vehicle design and the investigation observations.

These findings suggest that there should be further examination of Mr. Sikes account of the events of March 8.

NHTSA investigators were present during Toyota's examination, and are conducting their own investigation of the vehicle and its performance. Toyota's examination was also observed by a congressional staff member.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      what i find hilarious is his inability to spell toyota right
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think the ballon boy's dad just found a jail cell mate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If sykes can answer a simple question then i wouldn't call him names.

      Where the hell did he learn the idea that putting a car into neutral may flip the car?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sorry, but this witch hunt has taken on surreal proportions and only serves to propagate the belief held by non-Americans that the US media, government and society at large embody those very draconian anti-democratic principles that they supposedly start wars for to defend...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Beg pardon?

        Can you say that in your native tongue so we can run it through Google Translate to find out what you were trying to say?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota didn't call him a liar. I will... Sykes is a liar.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Most of Toyota's problems are nothing more than an attempt by the U.S Auto industry to discredit them. In other words, most of the problems reported are BS. If the United States wants to cripple the Japanese Auto Industry, try producing a better an more reliable car!!

      I drive a 2010 Prius and I love it. It is an amazing machine!!!
        • 5 Years Ago

        I believe that you owe Toyoda-san a "domo arigato".
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Most of Toyota's problems are nothing more than an attempt by the U.S Auto industry to discredit them."

        Thanks David, the check is in the mail.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Who to believe? Certainly not Toyota!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @BuyUSA then you're horribly misinformed this time...
        • 5 Years Ago
        As I said in an earlier post.. Sykes may or may not be a liar. If he isn't then he isn't, if he is, then he has undermined the fact that others genuinely have issues with their Toyotas and as a result of his fraud, their claims will likely be paired with this Sykes guy as likely another case of fraud.

        On the other hand, this issue with the test results from Toyota and the NHTSA really don't mean much either. There is no legitimate proof that his car didn't fail. It's no different than taking your car to the dealer saying it makes a certain noise or does something weird and the dealer can't replicate it and tells you everything is fine. Does that mean you're a liar? No. Does it mean the dealer is lying? Not necessarily, although, it has been known to happen. It just means that it's an intermitent problem.
        If all Toyotas known to have unintentionally accelerated, always unintentionally accelerated whenever it was driven, or all Prius' known to have brake failures, had always had failing brakes every time it was driven, etc, etc. there would be a lot more accidents every day with these cars.

        They're intermitent problems people! It is the nature of cars and it is true of ALL manufacturers. These Toyotas of late have issues, period, but not all of them, and not all the time.

        Mr. Sykes didn't say his Prius was out of control every time he drove it, just the last time. So is Toyota having the car for one week of the cars life going to prove it never happened. No.

        But regardless, this guy Sykes seems like a tool.

        His case is anecdotal and should not be paired with the countless other claims of the millions of other recalled Toyotas
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, if it turns out this was a hoax, I hope this guy goes to jail for wasting taxpayer money by getting the cops involved.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have to say in this incident, Toyota has certainly provided enough evidence to mark this fraud. But I have to ask: how come the Prius system can show many applications of the brakes and throttle, yet somehow in the TX Avalon case, the only thing available was the car's speed and in the NJ Avalon case there wasn't anything it could tell the techs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In the Toyota hybrid system like the Prius, there is no transmission and the "shift lever" is only an electrical switch. No mechanical connection to the transmission except for the "park" position which engages a pawl to hold the car from moving, but only after it is fully stopped.
        If the above mentioned problem is truly a computer glitch, Toyota holds all the cards. The software that controls the running of the car remains proprietary information. What should be done is; subpoena the source code from Toyota and have software engineers examine it to see what "fail-safe" modes Toyota used, (if any).
        I have a Highlander hybrid and I have on many occasions found it to still be applying power the the wheels after I put it in park! This becomes evident when I turn the key off and the car settles back. I have contacted Toyota a few times and got various explanations. The head drive-ability engineer at Toyota in Torrance tried to replicate the condition without success. He called me and gave me some unrelated answer. A simple fix (in my opinion) would be to have the fuel cut off whenever the brake pedal is depressed and while the engine is above idle speed. That way if the throttle sticks if would not cause a "runaway" condition as long as the brakes are applied. This, of course would have no effect on the ability of the electric motor to drive the car. I don't know how strong the brakes are in a Prius, but think they could out power the electric motor and allow the car to slow down.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The NHTSA had similiar findings to Toyota........I'm pretty sure Toyota is not lying for this one.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @bwzd7p2 5:04PM (3/15/2010)

        ----I have to say in this incident, Toyota has certainly provided enough evidence to mark this fraud. But I have to ask: how come the Prius system can show many applications of the brakes and throttle, yet somehow in the TX Avalon case, the only thing available was the car's speed and in the NJ Avalon case there wasn't anything it could tell the techs.-----

        Because the Prius is heavily controlled by computers. The Avalon much less so. They were able to pull data from the logs of the hybrid system that showed brake and accelerator usage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Given that Toyota suddenly, conveniently has Black Box data that was never available before, I'm a little skeptical.

        If I were a DA, I'd reopen a bunch of cases based on Black Box data that previously was claimed to be unreadable.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your username alone is enough to dismiss your opinion on this matter.
      • 5 Years Ago
      what? they are hiding something, there are way too many things left unanswered.

      If he was in fact applying the brakes, the car would have slowed down, and police behind him would have noticed it.

      You can't wear out brake pads down to the metal by holding them and the accelerator pedal, and again, NOT having people behind you noticed you are going slower.

      Toyota and the NHTSA were investigating and testing a car that was NOT malfunctioning at the time, so OBVIOUSLY there would be different results. This is like the classic case of someone going to the dealership to have a problem solved, only to have the dealer tell them they can't replicate the problem. toyota has americans by the b*lls.
        • 5 Years Ago
        the car would still have slowed down on the highway.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It would have had he bothered to actually press down on the brake like he said he was.
        • 5 Years Ago
        ah whatever. it's going to be interesting. The guy's lawyer told investigators that he's been driving the car for 3 years, so he said they should try for 3 years to recreate the problem haha
        • 5 Years Ago
        The data showed he alternately pressed the brake and accell over 250 times. He was trying to wear the brakes as part of the evidence for his HOAX.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well .. you have to put your heart out to Toyota on this one.

      They politely said the story he told cannot be correct -- or close to it.

      The damage is done; to Toyota's reputation (unfairly in this case).

      Pretty sad there are people like this ..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mikema, you should re-read the article more carefully. The Prius is a different animal than your normal car. Holding down the acclerator pedal and the brakes at the same time on the Prius has different results than the normal car. And whose to say this idiot wasn't wearing down his breaks all week long in his plan to decieve the public and collect his multi-million dollar lawsuit, claiming fear for his life.

      What this idiot was doing was pressing down on the break a little and giving it gas at the same time. So he was wearing down the break while giving it gas. He had the gas pedal to the floor while pressing down the break pedal 50 percent.

      Try that in any car and you will still maintain speed if your are flooring the gas pedal.

      Read the manuels that come with a Prius, you'll be amazed what the car does.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I read somewhere (can't remember if it was Autoblog or elsewhere) that this Sikes guy is in deep debt too.

      Hmm. I'm in debt, Toyota is having problems, I own a Toyota...let's create a fictitious problem and sue them for all they're worth!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Isn't this the doofuss that when asked why he didn't flip it into neutral replied, "I didn't want the car to flip over." Yeah right, that's going to happen.

      Paul S
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