By James Baxter, NMA President
Having gone through another siege of “unintended acceleration” hyperbole, and with the same outcome (the purported victims had their foot on the gas pedal instead of the brake) it would seem that this subject has been well vetted. Don’t bet on it. Too many parasites are waiting in the bushes hoping for a sympathetic victim or horrendous crash where the finger of blame will be pointed at a car that couldn’t be stopped.
These ethically challenged opportunists range from self-serving attorneys to government agencies. For example, in the current debacle involving Toyota and rogue floor mats, NHTSA turned its own ineptitude into an excuse to go to Congress to seek more money.
They want Congress to force the auto makers to add $9 to the cost of every new car that would then be given to NHTSA. Guess who really pays the nine bucks.
This is not to say that new technology or a simple component flaw would never cause unintended acceleration, or some other unexpected vehicle gyration. But instead of creating a new sci-fi bogeyman why not first discount the factor that caused this problem the last four times it cropped up?
Here’s what NHTSA knows, or should know about unintended acceleration:
All past investigations have shown that driver error, usually, mistakenly, pushing on the accelerator thinking it is the brake pedal, is the pre-eminent cause of unintended acceleration.
The brakes in modern vehicles can overpower the engine and stop a vehicle even when the engine is at full song. The ignition key will still shut off an engine, even one with its own mind. Clutches and neutral gears will disengage the engine from the wheels, regardless of the floor mat location. And finally, what people say, in fact what they vehemently believe is often wrong.
Given that set of facts, why was the official knee jerk reaction at NHTSA to look for gremlins in the electronic throttle systems?
After all the tantrums, accusations, and public crucifixion of Toyota they find “the throttle was wide open and the brakes were not applied.”