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Was Sudden Acceleration Caused by Drivers or Toyota?

Sudden AccelerationThe fact that the two most prominent business-reporting publications in America, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have opposing political views is nothing new. But when it comes to business, well, business is business, right? Apparently not.

Reporting on the exact same information related to sudden acceleration crash data on recalled Toyota vehicles, the Journal and the Times somehow managed to draw completely opposite conclusions. Here are the headlines:

Wall Street Journal: Early Tests Pin Toyota Accidents on Drivers
New York Times: Toyota Acknowledges 2 Vehicle Flaws
Amazing, isn't it?
But if you read through the stories, each media outlet does indeed validate the other's viewpoint. The Journal, for example, does report that a few of the accidents that precipitated the huge recall were indeed caused by vehicle flaws. Likewise, the Times acknowledged that most of the accidents were caused by driver error.

But their headlines clearly indicate opposite positioning of the same facts. One supports Toyota while the other, well, doesn't. Aside from being novel and fascinating trivia, to me, this highlights a growing chasm between corporate America and, well, pretty much everyone else, including much of the media and the federal government.

Are you at all concerned about this? I am, that's for damn sure. I mean, America is the world's great bastion of capitalism, is it not? And while small business is a huge force, in aggregate, it's nowhere near the size and power of corporate America. So what's the deal? Do people distrust corporations? Well, duh. I distrust corporations too. But I also distrust a lot of small business owners, some of my neighbors -- hell, I even distrust my dogs. Talk about selfish motives. Sheesh.

But that doesn't change the fact that I know which side this country's bread is buttered on. I mean, I know that democracy and capitalism are to thank for my standard of living, 50-50. Now, does that mean I blindly trust everything the corporate world does? Absolutely not. But I don't blindly distrust everything it does either. The sensible approach seems to be to take action and behavior at face value, doesn't it? Then why the bifurcation?

Honestly, I don't get it. Do you?

In any case, for those interested in the title story, here's an excerpt from the WSJ that I think contains the pertinent information, all spinning and positioning aside:

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren't engaged at the time of the crash, people familiar with the findings said.
The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

But the findings--part of a broad, ongoing federal investigation into Toyota's recalls--don't exonerate the car maker from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: "sticky" accelerator pedals that don't return to idle and floor mats that can trap accelerators to the floor.

The Toyota findings appear to support Toyota's position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren't caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs' attorneys have alleged.

NHTSA has received more than 3,000 complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyotas and Lexuses, including some dating to early last decade, according to a report the agency compiled in March. The incidents include 75 fatal crashes involving 93 deaths.

However, NHTSA has been able to verify that only one of those fatal crashes was caused by a problem with the vehicle, according to information the agency provided to the National Academy of Sciences.

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