LA Times: Prius inquiry takes a detour

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by a1a1a1, Mar 11, 2010.

  1. a1a1a1

    a1a1a1 Member

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    Prius inquiry takes a detour - latimes.com

    So, the San Diego "runaway" Prius isn't impounded by authorities, it's towed to the dealership that Bozo implicated in recall negligence.

    It sits unmonitored in a Toyota facility for two and a half days.

    Then the NHTSA stops by to do the investigation. But, guess what? They do it with Toyota there watching them. Congressman Issa sends one of his staffers over to watch (which by the way any congressional representative could also have done easily) and NHTSA stops work. They refuse to be observed (except of course, by Toyota).

    Why should anything that comes out of this "investigation" be trusted? First, any Tom, Dick or Harry Toyota tech could have walked over and wiped the non-volatile memory in the car computers anytime the past couple days (or done anything else). Second, it looks to a casual observer like NHTSA has no independence of action or thought (or possibly they are unskilled and can't handle it without Toyota). Third, it wasn't taken seriously if NHTSA didn't impound the car at a neutral location.

    Luckily, the FAA doesn't send airplane parts back to Boeing to help them do their analysis.

    However, not only is this a government foul up, it's a bonehead Toyota move, too. Toyota should have refused to take the car back into its facility. They would look 100 times better if an independent investigation declared some other problem besides the car. Now, the whole thing looks rigged from the Toyota side.
     
  2. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web BMW i3 and Model 3

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    Just a couple of points:

    • Dealership has all of the records, tools and access to local and Toyota technical services.
    • The staff that handled the earlier visit, their memories and their records are located there.
    • No 3d party location will have what is needed to analyze the problem.
    As for the congressional observer(s), it would be nice if they could watch but when dealing with technical issues, the technical people need to talk freely and frankly. For example, we often pose a hypothesis which a non-technical person might claim is a fact and announce "this is what it is." For example, Wolf Blitzer interviewing Woz trying to get him to call the Prius a dangerous vehicle. Investigations burdened by non-technical observers become a training class for the non-technical folks, which slows everything down and risks introducing more errors.

    We're interested in accurate and timely information so let the folks with the tools and skills get the first crack at this car. I would not be surprised if the accelerator assembly, floor carpets, and brakes are sent for microscopic and detailed analysis.

    The Congressional committee can subpoena the investigators and possibly (not sure here) go after the car. I admit some amusement at seeing the Congressmen and women in overalls with bunch of Craftsman tools trying to analyze the car. <GRINS> By the time the Congress-critters were done, any evidence would have been effectively erased and destroyed better than anything we could imagine. That is why 'experts' are used in such investigations.

    Congress will get the last word but first they need accurate facts and data. For accident investigation, there is no better place than the dealership.

    Bob Wilson
     
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  3. Politburo

    Politburo Active Member

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    The FAA doesn't investigate plane crashes. The NTSB does, and they most certainly do work with the aircraft manufacturers.

    In any case, the NHTSA team's actions are certainly odd.. but if you read the whole article, their stance does make sense. Rep. Issa sent a non-technical staffer to observe a technical inspection. How many misconceptions and incorrect observations might that staffer make, then report to Issa, and then Issa goes out and mouths off to the press? All this while NHTSA is trying to prepare an official report. Hopefully part of the negotiation is that Issa will keep his mouth shut until NHTSA releases an official report.

    I can't explain why it wasn't taken to a third-party location. I though techstream was just a laptop.. should be able to go anywhere.
     
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  4. web1b

    web1b Active Member

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    "So what" if Toyota watches them?
     
  5. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web BMW i3 and Model 3

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    I suspect this accident investigation will require more than just a techstream. Personally it is poetic justice that sends a message to all dealership:
    If a customer comes in asking for safety service with letter in hand, it is poor practice to turn them down. Error on the side of safety always.
    Bob Wilson
     
  6. robbyr2

    robbyr2 New Member

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    Of course we know that Toyota would have edited the ERD (if they can do that it isn't much good is it?) during the 1 and 1/2 days. I guess they should have taken the car to a Social Security office or naval base, since NHTSA doesn't have an office in San Diego. Did their investigator come from San Francisco or Washington DC?

    LaHood allowed Issa's observer according to the article. Good precedent- an individual congressman has no constitutional right to investigate anything that the executive branch does. Congress does.
     
  7. Politburo

    Politburo Active Member

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    First off, it's not even clear what letter this guy got. Was he incorrectly included in the GenIII recall? Was he talking about the November letter for GenIIs?

    Second, what service is the dealership supposed to perform in such a scenario? The placebo package? And they're supposed to stop doing other, profitable, work to do this?
     
  8. The Electric Me

    The Electric Me Go Speed Go!

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    We generally take a dim view of the government impounding the personal property of citizens. Innocent until proven guilty from both James Sikes side, and Toyota's side. I suspect given the pace of events, it would be difficult for any agency to step in and have the vehicle immediately impounded.

    I really have no problem with the location of the vehicle, and I don't think Joe Mechanic at the Toyota dealership is going to take the risk of involving himself in a potential accusation of fraud by clearing memory or otherwise tampering with the vehicle.

    I want honest investigation. I have no problem with the presence of the NHTSA and/or Toyota. I would expect both organizations to want to investigate. As long as what is being done is carefully documented, I have no problem with them working individually or in tandem. Both Toyota and the NHTSA have legitimate reason to have concern over the results of investigation.

    What I do have a problem with Congressman Issa sending one of his "staffers" over to observe. What type of BS interference is that?

    During the process of investigation I'm sure neither Toyota nor the NHTSA want leaks to the public. They don't want Non-Conclusive speculation reported as fact.

    IMO what does a congressman or his staffer have to do with the tangible investigation of a vehicle? If I was Toyota or the NHTSA I'd refuse to have an outside observer whose motives and qualifications are unclear looking over my shoulder.

    Outside of this singular event, this whole mess for Toyota has been far too political. Leave the investigation to the investigators and Congressmen should stay on the floor of congress.

    Admittedly the aide is described as not being an automotive expert. So if he has no skills or knowledge and is just an aide of a congressman what "good" does his presence become other than just to leak opinon or partial information to a 3rd source, which probably will become information grabbed and spun by the media?

    If the oversight commitee doesn't trust the NHTSA and wants to observe or evaluate themselves? Then send qualified trained experts, not a congressman's aide.
     
  9. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    This isn't a criminal investigation, at least not yet. The government had no authority to impound the Prius.

    Tom
     
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  10. Rae

    Rae New Member

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    The FAA often uses the facilities/services/expertise of the manufacturer in its investigations with FAA observers present.
     
  11. Rae

    Rae New Member

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    The FAA often uses the facilities/services/expertise of the manufacturer in its investigations with FAA observers present.
     
  12. Rae

    Rae New Member

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    Luckily, the FAA doesn't send airplane parts back to Boeing to help them do their analysis. The FAA does investigate non-crash issues such as faulty parts, and they do use the manufacutrer's facilities/expertise.
     
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  13. usbseawolf2000

    usbseawolf2000 HSD PhD

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    It seems the premise of the OP (the drift I got reading his post) is that Toyota would alter the evidence because they know something is wrong, and trying to cover up.

    Why are we assuming something is wrong with the car? We need to investigate the driver too.
     
  14. austingreen

    austingreen Senior Member

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    I would assume from the news story that something is very wrong with the car. Should not the presumption of innocence be given to those reporting car problems? Do you really trust big corporations so much that anyone that reports an issue is immediately called considered guilty of incompetence or fraud?

    That said, investigation of the car should include interviewing the driver and determining if the problem was caused by the car systems or the driver or an interaction of both. Toyota has already interviewed the driver and NTHSA has plans to do so.

    Given the ongoing lawsuits against toyota their is plenty of incentive to tamper with the car. You would think toyota and the NTHSA would want to at a minimum seal the car against tampering. The Issa thing looks bad for both the congressman and the safety agency. How about congress asking a NTSB rep to watch the proceedings? Why does an individual congressman with possible bias send a non technical person to watch and delay?
     
  15. meowcat

    meowcat New Member

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    "Impound" is a pretty strong word. Mr. Sikes can have his Prius back any time he wants. The only problem is, he doesn't want it back.
     
  16. don_chuwish

    don_chuwish Well Seasoned Member

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    The main problem here is that there isn't a qualified independent investigative option. NHTSA has already been exposed as incapable, Toyota has conflict of interest, any lab that could be hired would be easy to influence - or at least be left open to such accusation. What we're left with for an option is NHTSA closely watching and working with Toyota. If Toyota did something stupid like try to alter evidence that would be apparent and they'd be caught. An unqualified 3rd observer has no place being there however.

    My gut tells me they won't find a technical smoking gun with this car. They also can't afford to point fingers at the driver (public image suicide) unless they have VERY conclusive evidence to do so. I do feel however that it would be in Toyota's best interest to make an honest open investigation and FIND the problem if one exists. At this point it does them no good to come up with nothing or cover anything up.

    - D
     
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  17. PriusSport

    PriusSport senior member

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    It's beginning to look like the only cars in the country that have problems every day are Toyotas--especially Priuses. It also looks like the only country in the world having problems with Toyotas is the U.S.
     
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  18. zenMachine

    zenMachine Just another Onionhead

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    Stop bashing the US of A! Why do you hate America?
     
  19. hobbit

    hobbit Senior Member

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    What does anyone expect to find with a scantool? They aren't
    going to find anything with a scantool, in reality. And as I've
    pointed out N times already there isn't going to be any data in
    the EDR memory because there was no collision / airbag depoyment.
    Not that anyone knows how to read the EDR data in the first place,
    of course.
    .
    Mechanical examination might turn up something but I'm quite
    certain that none of those people involved has a working checklist
    of stuff to go after.
    .
    _H*
     
  20. jburns

    jburns Senior Senior Member

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    This paragraph gets to the heart of the matter. Toyota is in a battle to clear its reputation. They must make every effort to insure that things remain above board and there is no opportunity for tampering that someone could bring out in a court.

    IMO there is almost no chance that there is something wrong with this car. However by letting it sit unsecured at a dealership they gave away another opportunity to prove it. In legal terms this is called chain of custody. The Chain of Custody requires that from the moment the evidence is collected, every transfer of evidence from person to person be documented and that it be provable that nobody else could have accessed that evidence. That standard has not been met in this case.
     
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