The Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybrid car in the world, a status fueled by celebrity supporters, rabid consumer fans, and the Japanese auto giant’s own savvy marketing. But there’s a problem: a growing number of Prius owners claim that they’ve experienced “unintended acceleration” while driving–their cars take off suddenly and won’t stop, even if they slam on the brakes.
Reporter Paul Knight at Westword has tracked this dark side of Prius ownership “as owners share horror stories on blogs and message boards of crashing their cars through forests, garage doors and gas stations from Washington to Michigan to New York.”
Toyota’s response to these claims has included a feeble recall of “faulty floor mats” (which they say cause the gas pedal to stick), and a blame-the-consumer attitude:
“You get these customers that say, ‘I stood on the brake with all my might and the car just kept on accelerating,'” Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong explains. “They’re not stepping on the brake. People are so under stress right now, people have so much on their minds…you’re driving along, and the next thing you know, you’re two miles down the road and you don’t remember driving.”
Barbara Sherman, a retiree from North Carolina whose Prius sped her through a stoplight, responds to such allegations with, “Garbage–I was driving it, and I know what happened. There is definitely a problem.”