Blame Game – Revistionist History

In a world of media saturation, scandals are king. Yet, with access to a never ending source of information, each scandal is getting less than its 15 minutes in the limelight. Because of this, stories or events hardly have the time to unfold in the media leaving the viewer clueless to new facts and varying perspectives. This episode of Revisionist History is an example of just that. So, press play and let’s go back to 2009 when Toyota was under one of the biggest scandals in recent history. Prepare to have your mind blown…

The 911 Call

  • On August 28th, 2009, an off-duty police officer took his 2006 Lexus to the dealer to fix an issue with the CD player
    • He was given a brand new Lexus to use as a loaner
    • Later than day, he went to pick up his family in order to take his daughter to soccer practice
    • On the way there, Mark’s brother makes a call to the police stating that the accelerator in the car was stuck. They are going 120 mph and quickly approaching an intersection. The call ends abruptly as the car crashes killing everyone inside
  • The tape went viral causing a wave of fear to sweep the country
  • Hundreds of people came forward claiming their accelerator was getting stuck
  • Toyota had 7 recalls
  • Toyota fined $1.2 billion by the government. The largest fine ever given to an automaker.
    • Toyota also spend $1.1 billion to settle class action lawsuits
  • Toyota was accused of a cover up and putting profits over safety

Toyota Recalls Their Floor Mats

  • After the crash, another person came out saying they had the same loaner vehicle a couple of days before and ran into the same issue
    • This person found that the pedal got stuck behind a thick winter mat
    • Toyota recalls the mats
    • The biggest issue with the mat theory is that you have to be flooring it in order for the pedal to get stuck. Why was the officer flooring it on the way to soccer practice? A lot of the other sudden acceleration cases were brought forth by much older women, why are they flooring it?

Buggy Software

  • Sean Kain believes that there is more to this issue than just floor mats
    • He believes there was a bug within the car’s software that forced it to accelerate uncontrollably

The following video covers Sean’s argument to congress and how improbable it is:

Going Out For A Test Drive

Malcolm and his crew manage to acquire a Toyota Camry with 225k miles on it in order to replicate the sudden acceleration issue on a closed course.

  • They take the car out to the Car and Driver campus
  • The test consists of flooring the car (gas pedal all the way down), leaving the throttle wide open and around 70mph, applying the breaks
  • The car stopped every time. They even took the keys out off the ignition and it stopped
  • Car and Driver also did the same tests on a Mustang Roush and it stopped. This is to prove that breaks will win against one of the biggest engines of that time

The True Cause of Sudden Acceleration

  • Every automaker brand has these types of accidents. It happens all the time
  • When analyzing data on the victims of these accident, the drivers tend to be older, shorter, and people who are driving an unfamiliar car (think parking lot attendants or a car rental)
  • The issue of sudden acceleration was caused by people thinking they were stomping on the break when they were actually pressing the accelerator
    • The overwhelming majority of cases were due to pedal error
      • The vehicle’s black box often showed that the break pedal was never applied
  • ABC stages a test where they depict a Toyota Avalon accelerating and the breaks not working
  • This experiment was later exposed as being fixed with several scenes being edited in for dramatic effect. Get the details of that report here
  • created a contest and offered $1 million reward to anyone who could prove it was the car that caused sudden acceleration.
    • They had 19 submissions and none of them were able to prove it. The money was never awarded

Thinking Like A Car Guy

The episode ends with a warning to all drivers to never forget that getting behind the wheel of a complex machine like a vehicle should never be taken for granted. Often times, we feel as if the car itself will take care of us while out on the road, when in fact, we should be doing everything in our power to make sure we are operating this machine to the best of our abilities.

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