SAN DIEGO — Toyota Motor Corp. dismissed the story of a man who claimed his Prius sped out of control on the California freeway, saying Monday that its tests found the gas pedal and backup safety system worked fine.
The automaker stopped short of saying James Sikes had staged a hoax last week but said his account did not square with tests it conducted on the gas-electric hybrid.
"We have no opinion on his account, what he's been saying, other than that the scenario is not consistent with the technical findings," spokesman Mike Michels told a press conference.
A statement from Sikes' attorney, John H. Gomez, said the firm would not comment further on the episode until a government investigation was complete. Sikes did not respond to phone messages.
The episode March 8 was among the highest-profile headaches Toyota has suffered in recent months. It recalled more than 8 million cars and trucks worldwide because gas pedals can become stuck in the down position or be snagged by floor mats.
In Sikes' case, Toyota said it found he rapidly pressed the gas and brakes back and forth 250 times, the maximum amount of data that the car's self-diagnostic system can collect. That account appears to contradict Sikes' statement — backed by the California Highway Patrol — that he was frantically slamming the brakes, at one point lifting his buttocks off the seat.
Toyota officials said they believed Sikes was hitting the pedals lightly, which would have prevented the brake-override system from kicking in.
The company had no explanation for discrepancies with Sikes' account but confirmed the brakes were overheated and the pads worn. Bob Waltz, vice president of product, quality and service support at Toyota Motor Sales USA., said the front brakes were "metal to metal."
Toyota said it believes a CHP officer's account that he smelled burning brakes while guiding Sikes on the freeway.
The rest of the car was fine, the automaker said — the gas pedal was not slowed by friction, the floor mat was not touching the pedal, and a system that cuts the engine power when the gas and brakes are pressed at the same time was working.
Toyota said its tests also showed the car's electronics were working fine.