Car Trouble

Readers respond to "Wild Ride"

Car Trouble

Online readers comment on "Wild Rides," by Paul Knight, April 23:

Design flaw: First of all, I'm glad that Toyota actually had a representative talk to the Press. Too few companies do that anymore.

Knight's article addresses the floor mat story over and over again — it even includes a story about a factory model surging and then stopping on a test drive. The mechanic blamed the owner for monkeying with the floor mats before the dealer helpfully told him this was a floor model car that hadn't been altered at all.

Still and all, if simple floor mats can so easily cause a driving catastrophe, then that's a serious design flaw. Floor mats shouldn't require an owner's manual.

Comment by JT from Houston

Green guy: Notice your quote from David Hermance, the so-called "Father of the American Prius": "I'm convinced that global warming is real, and that if we're not principally responsible, we're at least contributing to that...I'd like to leave the planet a little better than I found it." Then notice this piece of information a few paragraphs down: "Hermance died in the fall of 2006 after crashing his airplane into the Pacific Ocean."

His airplane. I mean, I'm sorry he's dead and all, but how very green of him.

Comment by Joseph McDade
from Houston

Foxy Press: Let me preface this by stating my biases...I love the Press, but I loathe Priuses. Still, I think this article is more reminiscent of something Fox News would print in a campaign to drum up ratings.

I sympathize with the folks who wrecked their beloved cars. However, unintended acceleration is a well-known phenomenon that has been studied by the National Transportation Safety Board and other government agencies for more than 20 years. The fact is that the results of the impartial studies invariably point to user error — the driver either hits the gas instead of the brake, or shifts into drive with their foot on the gas.

Prius drivers are generally not "car people," and this makes them more likely to do this because they really don't pay attention. Also, their well-documented smug nature makes them disinclined to admit fault under any circumstances. Don't blame the poor car. Look in the mirror, folks!

Comment by Bob F from Houston

No respect: I see both sides of the picture here, and I think Toyota needs to get up and give its loyal followers a good explanation. I have followed cars my whole life, and I find Toyota basically calling everyone who bought their cars ignorant to be very offensive. The fact that some cars have had unexplained acceleration while most of them haven't is no reason to call it driver error. Has Toyota ever even offered a recall on moving parts before? (I know they have, I'm not stupid.)

After reading this article, I was ready to get up and buy a Hummer. A minute later that feeling was gone, but nonetheless, I have lost all respect for Toyota. Toyota's dependability seems to have given the company an attitude that says, "If something acts funny on the car, it must be something you have done." But let's face it: Even the best cars break down.

I think it should be everyone's responsibility to do a little to protect the environment. Everyone who drives a Prius is in some way helping the environment. But let's remember, the person driving the Civic, the Yaris, the Cobalt or the Rabbit is, in one way or another, also trying to help the environment. Not everyone can afford a $25,000 compact car.

Comment by Matt from Angleton

Why? Are you going to write a second part? Because, with so many Priuses accelerating without explanation, you will now have to find the truth about this...right?

Comment by Tom from Vancouver

A poet's take: People don't blame the driver for the SUV rollovers, do they? So cut the Prius drivers some slack. It seems the great poet Robert Burns addressed this issue long ago: "O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us. To ne'er let oursels drive a Prius."

As did Houston's own Geto Boys: "Some might say, "Take a chill, B, but f*ck that shit! There's Prius tryin' to kill me!"

Comment by F. Jones
from Houston

More info please: "Wild Rides" was a very poorly written article. As a Prius owner, I am very interested in the potential problem that he reports on, but he confines his report solely to documenting the problems of about a half dozen Prius owners and their tribulations trying to report their problems to Toyota. Totally ignored is any information on whether or not the National Transportation Safety Board is aware of this problem and what their take on it is, any discussion or speculation on what may be causing the problem, what the risk is to other Prius drivers (i.e., what fraction of total Prius owners have encountered this problem) and, most importantly, what actions a Prius owner should take if he finds himself suddenly driving a runaway accelerating car. This story was a very poor example of investigative journalism.

Comment by Glenn Nichols from Houston

The answer? "Suddenly, she felt the car hydroplaning out of control, and when she glanced at the speedometer she realized the car had shot up to 84 mph. Riner wasn't hydroplaning; quite simply, her Prius had accelerated on its own. She pushed on the brakes but they were dead."

Translation: She was hydroplaning; the front wheels, suddenly liberated from the forces of friction, sped up to 84 miles per hour. The brakes did not work because when you are hydroplaning, you still slide when the wheels stop spinning.

Comment by dogmatic

CORRECTIONS

In our story "Wild Rides" (by Paul Knight, April 23), we wrote that Toyota responded to claims of an acceleration problem in Priuses by recalling faulty floor mats. In fact, it didn't. During a recall of floor mats used in other Toyota models, Prius owners were simply cautioned to make sure their floor mats were properly installed.

Gabba gabba hey: In a picture accompanying last week's Music feature "Live at Liberty Hall," Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone was misidentified as guitarist Johnny Ramone. The Houston Press regrets the error, but in our defense, there were about 87 different Ramones throughout the band's 20-year career.

The Houston Press regrets the errors.

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