Toyota got a bit of good news in its ongoing recall saga, as federal investigators cast doubt on a California driver's account of a harrowing, high-speed drive in his blue 2008 Prius. James Sikes, 61, claimed the car's accelerator got stuck and he couldn't stop the runaway car. But investigators say Sikes' car performed fine when they drove it — and they found patterns of wear in his brakes that didn't fit his story. Was the tale of the runaway Prius a hoax? If so, will Toyota get a PR boost from the news, or has the damage to carmaker's reputation already been done? (Watch an AP report about the mystery of the "Runaway Prius")
This is a godsend for the embattled auto giant: Toyota clearly is responsible for the defects in the 8 million cars it recalled for accelerator problems, says Douglas A. McIntyre in Daily Finance, but now federal regulators "are likely to look at some of these malfunction claims with an extra bit of skepticism. And that may bring Toyota a measure of the public sympathy," which could be just what the automaker needs "to repair its brand."
"Runaway Prius story: Fact, fraud or media-induced delusion?"
The jury's still out on the runaway Prius: The investigators haven't said this was a hoax, says Josh Mitchell in The Wall Street Journal. They just haven't found evidence that definitively explains what happened when James Sikes had to call 911 as his car zoomed along at 90 miles per hour, and get a highway patrol officer to help him stop the car as it slowed on a hill.
"Test on Prius is inconclusive"
Let's hope this doesn't let Toyota off the hook: James Sikes' story never smelled right, says Brian Cooley in CBSNews.com, and that was before news got out that Sikes is nearly bankrupt and way behind on the payments for his Prius. If the San Diego Prius story turns out to be bogus, people will no doubt start feeling sorry for Toyota. "I just hope that doesn't blot out the truth about what, if anything, is really going on with their cars."
"Will Toyota ride the 'San Diego Prius' back to glory?"