Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another media fabrication

The howler monkeys in the media have done it again. Remember when Toyota cars by the score were suddenly accelerating on their own and it was all you heard about earlier this year? The media piled on, and eventually Congress hauled Toyota executives in for the rubber hose treatment.

“There are a variety of causes -- pedal entrapment, sticky pedal, other foreign objects in the car” and “pedal misapplication,” Michels said yesterday in a telephone interview. Asked how many crashes were linked to pushing the accelerator when motorists thought they were pushing the brake pedal, he said, “virtually all.
A nearly identical thing happened to Audi in the 1980s, and it was years before Audi successfully reentered the American market. From a 1990 Manhattan Institute piece:
The Audi story is by now, dismally familiar. "Sudden acceleration" accidents occurred when the transmission was shifted out of "park." The driver always insisted he was standing on the brake, but after the crash the brakes always worked perfectly. A disproportionate number of accidents involved drivers new to the vehicle. When an idiotproof shift was installed so that a driver could not shift out of park if his foot was on the accelerator, reports of sudden acceleration plummeted.

But a story to the effect that cars accelerate when drivers step on the accelerator doesn't boost television ratings or jury verdicts. And driver error is understandably hard to accept for a mother whose errant foot killed her sixyearold son. So with the help of such mothers, CAS and CBS knitted together a tissue of conjecture, insinuation and calumny. The car's cruise control was at fault. Or maybe the electronic idle. Or perhaps the transmission.

"60 Minutes," in one of journalism's most shameful hours, gave air time in November 1986 to a selfstyled expert who drilled a hole in an Audi transmission and pumped in air at high pressure. Viewers didn't see the drill or the pump—just the doctored car blasting off like a rocket.
How much did this media fabrication, aided and abetted by the most anti-business American government in history, cost Toyota?

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