SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) – Toyota cast doubt Monday on a California man's claim that his Prius sped out of control, saying the report is inconsistent with the findings of the company's preliminary investigation.
Toyota said in a statement that the accelerator pedal was tested and found to be working normally and a backup safety system worked properly. The automaker said the front brakes showed severe wear and damage from overheating, but the rear brakes and parking brake were in good condition.
The motorist, James Sikes, said his car raced to 94 mph on a freeway near San Diego last week. The March 8 incident ended when Sikes stopped the car with help from a California Highway Patrol officer.
"While a final report is not yet complete, there are strong indications that the driver's account of the event is inconsistent with the findings of the preliminary analysis," the statement said.
A telephone message seeking comment on Toyota's assertions was left by The Associated Press at the office of Sikes' attorney, John H. Gomez.
Earlier in the day, federal regulators said they were reviewing data from the gas-electric hybrid but so far had not found anything to explain the out-of-control acceleration reported by Sikes.
"We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement.
Inspectors said they tried to duplicate the acceleration during a two-hour test drive but could not.
Sikes has said the car sped up to 94 mph on a freeway near San Diego. He said he jammed on the brakes trying to stop it.
Sikes called 911, and a highway patrol officer helped bring the vehicle to a safe stop. Though no one was injured, the episode quickly becoming a high-profile headache for Toyota, which like NHTSA sent in an engineering team to investigate.
Gomez, the attorney for Sikes, said the failure to recreate the incident was insignificant and not surprising.
"They have never been able to replicate an incident of sudden acceleration. Mr. Sikes never had a problem in the three years he owned this vehicle," he said Sunday.
But Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested the failure to duplicate the stuck accelerator, and the presence of a backup system in the car, raised questions about Sikes' story.
"It doesn't mean it didn't happen, but let's understand, it doesn't mean it did happen," Issa said on CBS' "The Early Show."
NHTSA is looking into claims by more than 60 Toyota owners that their vehicles had accelerated unexpectedly even after they were supposedly fixed.
Regulators said in a statement that Sikes' Prius was equipped with a backup safety device that reduces power to the wheels when the brakes and gas are pressed at the same time.
"The system on Mr. Sikes' Prius worked during our engineers' test drive," the statement said.
While investigators from Toyota and NHTSA reviewed the Prius during the same two days, a Transportation Department official said their investigations are separate.
"It does not appear to be feasibly possible, both electronically and mechanically that his gas pedal was stuck to the floor and he was slamming on the brake at the same time," said a memo prepared for Congress that cited a Toyota official.
Toyota has recalled millions of cars because floor mats can snag gas pedals or accelerators can stick. Sikes' car was covered by the floor mat recall but not the one for sticky accelerators. He later told reporters that he tried to pull on the gas pedal during his harrowing ride, but it didn't "move at all."
Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.
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