Then The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by a UCLA psychology professor (emeritus) questioning all such claims. The writer, who had worked on the issue years ago, wrote that they were usually driver error--stepping on the accelerator pedal instead of the brakes--and noting that older drivers tend to make these mistakes more often.
Flash forward to 19 April 2010, and AP has a story titled Toyota set to agree on record fine, AP source says which includes:
Toyota faces a Monday [April 19] deadline to accept or contest the $16.4 million fine, the largest ever assessed by the government against an automaker, over evidence it knew about the defective gas pedals in September but did not issue a recall until January.
The fine was based upon timelines provided by Toyota that showed it had known about the sticky pedal defect at least since Sept. 29, 2009, when it issued repair procedures to distributors in 31 European countries to address complaints of sticking pedals, sudden increases in engine RPM and unexpected vehicle acceleration.
The documents also indicated that Toyota knew that owners in the U.S. had experienced the same problems.
Hmmm, this time the "blaming the old people" defense may not have worked.
Thinking about Sikes' Prius: issues of proof
**Separately, see the article titled Toyota response to complaints takes on a confrontational tone;
Special teams are sent to investigate, and sometimes discredit, reported problems in April 9, 2010 Los Angeles Times,
Critics say the company is acting prematurely and in some cases spreading misinformation.
"It is a very aggressive and misleading campaign," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "Toyota can't win this battle by slinging mud, but they are trying."
Ditlow is furious over an e-mail Toyota sent to some reporters, a copy of which he provided to The Times, alleging that he was on the payroll of plaintiff attorneys. Ditlow said that neither he nor his organization takes money from law-yers. Ditlow said his funding comes from nonprofit foundations, auto insurers, consumers and its publications.
Congressional investigators, meanwhile, complain that Toyota has sent multiple teams of lobbyists after them to sow discord among committee staffers. Toyota lobbyists are trying to disrupt the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's investigation, a staffer on the committee said.
Toyota has also taken on several congressional witnesses.
David Gilbert, a professor of automotive technology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in February that his experiments showed potential flaws in Toyota's elec-tronic engine control system.
Two Toyota employees resigned from a board of advisors for Gilbert's academic department.