Conflict of Interest?

I don't know any of the facts of the Toyota recall, so I don't know how pressing the sudden acceleration problems are.  But I found it an interesting conflict of interest that the recall was pressed on Toyota by their competitor:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told WGN Radio in Chicago that the government pressed the company to stop building vehicles linked to the massive recall. LaHood said "the reason Toyota decided to do the recall and to stop manufacturing was because we asked them to."

The US Government, of course, owns a controlling interest of Toyota competitor GM.  One GM dealer had this comment

"Every dog has its day," said Jerry Seiner, who has a group of General Motors and dealers of other brands around Salt Lake City. "Maybe they'll take a second look at us instead of Toyota. . . . When Toyota stumbles, it's our opportunity."

  • twolaneflash

    Stumbled, then pushed to the ground by Government Motors. Look out for The Bus! Where's that old warhorse, the nemesis of the automobile industry, Ralph Nader? Ralphie?

  • Tim

    It's not a conflict of interest. Because Toyota hasn't identified root cause, and they don't have a repair for the issue -- they're legally required to stop selling the vehicles.

    It wasn't that Ray LaHood 'asked' -- NHTSA informed them of their legal obligation.

  • http://mjb.biglaughs.org m

    @Tim: But, the point I think Coyote is making is the relationship between the Feds, GM and Chrysler necessarily raises questions like, is that rule uniformly enforced across all manufacturers? Should GM and Chrysler be issuing recalls but NHTSA isn't "informing" them of their obligation?

    It might be completely legit but the nature of the relationship at least raises these issues.

    What a horrifying mess.

  • morganovich

    and ray lahood is from....

    wait for it...

    michigan. what a surprise.

    isn't this the same issue that the USNHTSA has already found no evidence on and closed the books on 6 times in the past?

    that said, i have no info on this besides what i just read online. sounds like floor mats may be a potential culprit.

    that said, whether lahood is right or wrong, his conflicts of interest here make a good case for why he should not be transportation secretary.

  • Stan

    So, if GM starts selling time-bombs on wheels, we can sue the government? Assuming this hypothetical happens, this conflict of interest certainly entangles the government in a legal web, much more so than as another stakeholder.

  • Tim

    @m: In other words, does the Government/GM relationship create a conflict of interest? I don't think so. There's an appearence of a conflict, but there's black letter law here -- you can't sell vehicles with unrepaired defects. This, by the way, is different than selling vehicles that have active recall campaigns. As long as the specific vehicle in question has been reworked, you can sell it. Because Toyota doesn't have a corrective action for this defect yet; they can't sell new production.

    In the end, LaHood's self-aggrandizing statement -- "We asked them..." versus the proper "We informed them of their legal obligations" that is more of the issue than the government's current ownership of GM.

  • Tim

    @morganovich: Floor mats aren't the issue. There are reported instances after the floor mats have been removed.

  • Esox Lucius

    Every dog has it's day but this car buyer will never again buy a "Dog" from the clowns at Government Motors. I own 2 toyotas, and love them like they were my children. Best. Value. Ever.

  • anon

    "So, if GM starts selling time-bombs on wheels, we can sue the government?"

    No, not unless they've expressly given up sovereign immunity.

  • Tim

    @morganovich: And, for correctness, Ray LaHood is from Illinois. Born in Peoria, he represented the 18th Illinois district in the US House from 1995 to 2009.

  • Methinks

    Every dog has it’s day but this car buyer will never again buy a “Dog” from the clowns at Government Motors. I own 2 toyotas, and love them like they were my children. Best. Value. Ever.

    ditto. And, IMO, Lexus is superior to other luxury brands.

  • Ken

    “Maybe they’ll take a second look at us instead of Toyota. . . . When Toyota stumbles, it’s our opportunity.”

    Or maybe I'll just wait a spell until Toyota gets it sorted out...or maybe I'll hunt around for a good used 190D with a 5-speed manual like I planned to do anyway.

  • morganovich

    tim-

    my mistake. an article i read described him as being from michigan and i didn't check it.

    however, regarding floor mats, i'm not so sure. "sudden acceleration" has been a BS catch all for "my big dumb feet are used to a buick where you can barely see the gas from the brake on a clear day and i hit the wrong pedal on my japanese car because they are smaller and closer together."

    honda endured all many of lawsuits about this when they first came into the US and no defect was ever found.

    NHTSA has found nothing yet and cleared toyota several times. there may be a problem, but apart from floor mats, no one has (to my admittedly limit knowledge based on 10 minutes with google) demonstrated it yet.

    the hysteria around the honda claims was just as intense and ended up being user error. such is possible here is well. there may be a problem, but until someone finds it, best to keep an open mind. innocent until proven guilty.

    ken-

    i think you're dead right. if there's one thing that rental cars demonstrate to me every time i get one, it's that i have ZERO interest in american cars. blech.

  • sethstorm

    I guess it's a good day to drive General Motors and not some product not made north of the Mason-Dixon line. At least General Motors doesn't have the Die-By-Wire feature that Toyota seems to want to sell (despite the recall).

    It would be inaccurate to say that their competitor did anything of the sort. Lahood made the query, not General Motors.

    Toyota: Moving you forward with Die-By-Wire(TM).

  • sethstorm

    i think you’re dead right. if there’s one thing that rental cars demonstrate to me every time i get one, it’s that i have ZERO interest in american cars.

    More choices for me to work with on the lot, especially with the DTS on the lots.

    Here's to hoping for a capitulation on the part of Toyota and them making cars as opposed to golfcarts and trucks.

  • A Friend

    Guys, I don't believe there is a car sold in the US that can move forward if the brakes are depressed. Racers do this to launch quicky: revs the engine up with the brakes on, then release the brakes. You can try it yourself. Conclusion: unintended acceleration just means incompetent drivers. If you sell the most cars, like Toyota, you will have the most incompetent drivers. Audi suffered the same kind of attack by trial lawyers and government in US, while the exact same cars never gave any trouble when sold in Germany or anywhere else. Hmmm... I wonder why.

  • A Friend

    Sorry, that should be Folks, not Guys.

  • Tim

    @morganovich - The Detroit Free Press has reported that pedal supplier CTS has begun to provide replacement parts -- there is supposedly a wear-out mechanism where the return spring doesn't provide sufficient force to return the pedal to neutral. I'm not sure if this is real root cause; but it would explain why some vehicles in the lineup aren't affected. Of course, with all that said; I still think LaHood was irresponsible in his statement.

    @sethstorm - Just about everybody is using throttle-by-wire control; including GM. That's all tied in with electronic throttle control and returnless fuel rails.

    @A Friend - There's such a thing as brake fade; and most passenger cars have wide-open-throttle power output that exceeds brake power. A launch is usually not at full throttle, and is in a lower gear so the output to the drive wheels is lower than in a drive gear.

  • http://mjb.biglaughs.org m

    @Tim: No, it's not the statement that's the issue. The issue is the obvious conflict of interest. LaHood obviously has an interest in GM and Chrysler, as a member of the Obama Administration. He also has authority to force a recall on, not just GM and Chrysler, but their competitors. I work in an ethics department. Trust me. It's a conflict of interest. The guy may as well be a VP at Microsoft and sit on Apple's Board.

    In an environment where there's an unthinkably large budget deficit and Obama's popularity is very low, it just looks terrible to be putting a (the?) key competitor at a disadvantage. A GM success both recoups budget money and makes Obama look good.

    Again, it may all be above board, but the appearance is terrible.

  • Ron H.

    @A Friend - In the Saylor case, the driver was a veteran California Highway Patrol officer. Not likely an incompetent driver. There was time for a passenger to call 911 while the car raced out of control, so one could imagine that there was time to attempt to stop the car by pressing ignition off, shifting to neutral, or braking during that time. We will likely never know for sure as all occupants were killed. Lots of questions remain.

  • Ron H.

    @Tim - "...and most passenger cars have wide-open-throttle power output that exceeds brake power."

    That's pretty interesting. Where did you find that information? Please don't say that it's just intuitive.

    "A launch is usually not at full throttle, and is in a lower gear so the output to the drive wheels is lower than in a drive gear."

    Actually, in a lower gear the torque to the drive wheels will be a great deal higher than in a drive gear.

  • anon

    I'll buy the brakes faded & couldn't stop the car. But brakes certainly have more power than the motor -- try timing 0-60mph vs. 60-0mph. Most likely the driver tried to slow with the brakes, but didn't just brake agressively to a full stop and stay there. Instead tried several times and cooked them.

    That leaves two options, both not used by the driver -- shifting to neutral or turning off the engine (yes, I understand there's a 3 second hold on some off buttons).

    Face it -- the driver (understandably, but fatally) panicked.

  • Tim

    @m: There may be a conflict of interest, but there is also fairly explicit law on what triggers an investigation, what triggers a campaign, and manufacturer's reporting requirements. So, the government isn't trying to put a key competitor at a disadvantage; they're simply upholding the law.

    (By the way, even if a conflict doesn't motivate the actions of the party, is it still a conflict of interst? In this example, NHTSA acted because, by law, they had to. Even though the government owns GM, does the actual conflict exist, or is it just an appearance of one?)

    @Ron H. & anon: Regarding throttle v. brake -- 0-60 compared to 60-0 isn't really a valid comparison, because deceleration times are done with the engine at idle. The real test would be get a car up to 60, keep the accelerator and engine output constant, then try and stop with the service brake. And, yes, the torque will be higher in low gear; but at the same engine RPM the lower gearing will translate to less power. You have low gears for torque to get you out of the hole; and higher gear ratios to get more power at the same RPM.

  • morganovich

    seth-

    you can have all the american cars you want and you're welcome to 'em, but if you think drive by wire sucks, you've never driven one.

    my car has electronic steering, brakes, and throttle and they are fantastic, especially as it allows you to modulate inputs (sport mode and speed sensitive steering) to make the car more or less responsive. works in f-16's...

    enjoy your drum brakes and rubber raft in whitewater style shocks...

    tim-

    not sure you're right about that comparison. going 0-60, the brakes are off too. what matters is relative power at the wheel, and keep in mind, you have 4 wheels stopping and only one or two driving in most cars. as someone who grew up racing, i can tell you that brakes are nearly always more powerful than engines, especially the little sewing machines they drop in a camry.

    however, they guys arguing for a higher gear may be leaving something out: pin the throttle in an automatic and it downshifts for you.

    i still think brakes would overpower this, especially as most computerized engines have a fuel cut off if you over rev. that said, having you car do something unpredictable like that, especially in traffic, is a lot to ask of a driver. possible to control does not mean easy to control.

    of course, if people just drove a stick, they wouldn't have these problems.

  • sethstorm


    @sethstorm – Just about everybody is using throttle-by-wire control; including GM. That’s all tied in with electronic throttle control and returnless fuel rails.

    Well, they need to deal with their non-luxury car supplier. Otherwise it might as well be named Die-By-Wire as long as it remains unresolved. Not everyone can buy a Lexus to get out of the problem.

    Odd though that Toyota's luxury division (read: Lexus) is having no problems.

  • sethstorm


    you can have all the american cars you want and you’re welcome to ‘em, but if you think drive by wire sucks, you’ve never driven one.

    Only poking fun at Toyota's implementation. Pardon if you were confused.

    If you know what the 2nd generation Oldsmobile Aurora is, then you should know that I already use shift-by-wire and ABS. I don't have to worry about the engine computer cutting half the cylinders out on me on a normal day-to-day basis.

    If I drive something else that has stability control, it gets turned off. If the warranty gets voided by turning it off (Nissan for example), I don't drive that car.

  • rxc

    I think the problem is Americans' dependence on automatic transmissions. I had an "unintended acceleration" event once, on my first Fiat(!), and I just shifted to neutral, turned off the engine, and stopped. 2 seconds. Turned out to be a loose emissions hose that got tangled in the throttle cable. Never happened again. People need to go back to manual transmissions - they are also quite a bit better to drive in slippery conditions, because you have better control over the wheel speed.

  • IgotBupkis

    > @morganovich: Floor mats aren’t the issue. There are reported instances after the floor mats have been removed.

    This isn't the same vehicles as the floormat issue.

    Apparently there's a problem with the accelerator pedals from a certain US manufacturer. Not all the vehicles use that specific pedal. Supposedly, the pedal was chosen as a cost-cutting matter under the previous CEO. I think, in that case, it's failed to cut costs.

    Note, however, what's driving this:
    "Toyota has recalled 2.3 million vehicles due to problems with sticking pedals made by CTS. CTS said Wednesday that there were fewer than a dozen reports of problems with its pedals, but Toyota decided to halt sales while it looks for a fix."

    Also, from elsewhere, no one has been harmed by any of these issues.

    Just so y'all realize what a "massive" problem this is: no one hurt, and fewer than a dozen reports of *actual* problems.

    Not to minimize the risk involved, but we ARE talking about an error rate of .0005 PERCENT. And this issue has cost Toyota billions. *Ludicrous*.

  • Ron H.

    @Seth - One of the most publicized of these cases was a Lexus 350.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/18/business/fi-toyota-recall18

    The following Toyota models are affected:

    * 2005-2010 Avalon
    * 2007-2010 Camry
    * 2007-2010 ES 350
    * 2006-2010 IS 250 and IS350
    * 2005-2010 Tacoma
    * 2007-2010 Tundra
    * 2004-2009 Prius

  • Ron H.

    @IgotBupkis - "Also, from elsewhere, no one has been harmed by any of these issues.

    Just so y’all realize what a “massive” problem this is: no one hurt, and fewer than a dozen reports of *actual* problems."

    No one was hurt? Please check the following from October 2009:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/18/business/fi-toyota-recall18

  • IgotBupkis

    > I’m not sure if this is real root cause; but it would explain why some vehicles in the lineup aren’t affected.

    As per the note above, yes, it is. Here's a breakdown I thought fairly informative. The parts aren't used in all models, just some of them.

    And as far as Toyota being "worse" than American models, ummm, how many different American cars have been recalled for issues of "exploding" in the last 40 years? At least two off the top of my head -- Ford Pintos and some other truck model, I forget if it was Ford or GM. This instance is hardly an "exploding" problem.

    I suspect a lot of it is, indeed, "Problem exists between steering wheel and driver's seat" issues. Floor mats are an easy problem to solve: Remove the damned things. They're generally excess folderol anyway.

  • IgotBupkis

    Ron,
    a) The Lexus does not use this pedal, isn't covered by the recall, and has no known connection to the issue you describe -- as you can see from your own list.
    b) I did read the description of the Saylor event. I have to wonder about the competency of the driver (not holding CHiPs in the same unquestioning high regard) since it's rather clear from the description that there was more than ample time for the car to be put into neutral and/or simply turned off. No matter how F***ed up the pedal is, those two actions are rather obvious, and will resolve the problem of acceleration... The biggest danger with regards to the latter is that when you turn off the car, the power steering dies with it, so handling becomes rather more difficult. But there's no sign that was even attempted, so "whatever"... It's not trivially easy to burn the brakes out, either. You have to apply them against load for a long ways. The driver in question can't have had less than 3-4 minutes to solve their problem safely, yet somehow failed completely. Not buying four different system failures all at once -- accelerator, brake, transmission, AND ignition. Ergo -- Occam's razor suggests "Exceptionally Bad Driver Failure", regardless of who he was. Sad, but by far the most probable answer.

  • anon

    Tim wrote: "Regarding throttle v. brake — 0-60 compared to 60-0 isn’t really a valid comparison, because deceleration times are done with the engine at idle. The real test would be get a car up to 60, keep the accelerator and engine output constant, then try and stop with the service brake. And, yes, the torque will be higher in low gear; but at the same engine RPM the lower gearing will translate to less power. You have low gears for torque to get you out of the hole; and higher gear ratios to get more power at the same RPM."

    Tim, your physics is AFU. First, torque multiplied by RPM = power. If your units are ft-lbs for torque and horsepower for power, then the unit conversion factor is 1/5250 -- i.e., at 5250 RPM, 1 ft-lb of torque is 1 horsepower.

    Second, the power to the drive wheels (from the motor) is not affected much by which gear you're in. Drivetrain losses are relatively constant regardless of gear. Torque to the drive wheels changes with the gearing proportional to the gear ratio. We don't care about torque in this case, though, we care about power. Since the speed of the wheels at a given RPM changes proportional to the gearing, it cancels out the change in torque = same power.

    Third, the question is whether brakes or motor can deliver more power to the wheels. A useful first approximation, absent a dyno, is a 0-60mph (or 60-0) acceleration time. This assumes that the car weight is a constant and ignores (but doesn't have to) the net effect of drag (e.g., air friction), which helps out the brakes.

    Here's a calculator for you: http://www.060calculator.com/

    Now the real test you want is whether the brakes will fade before the car gets stopped, assuming full throttle from 60mph. That's easy -- get on a big racetrack, pin the throttle and stand on the brakes. We don't care about the "service brake", we want to know if the car will stop or not. The brakes use all four wheels, the motor 1, 2, or 4.

  • Tim

    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/10/toyota-recall-putting-stuck-floor-mat-survival-strategies-to-the-test.html

    "Most experts agree that a typical production car engine won’t overpower the car’s brakes from a stop. But what happens at speed is another question. Since we just happen to have a test track and a few dozen test cars at our disposal, our automotive engineers decided to play MythBusters and put it to a test.

    ....

    Next up, we tried our Toyota Venza and Chevrolet HHR. Since these lacked smart-throttles, we proceeded more cautiously. So we decided to start this test by flooring the cars to 20 mph (instead of 60) and then slamming on the brakes. While we stopped both cars, the transmissions downshifted hard, trying to fight us on the way down, and we needed to exert quite a bit of brake pedal effort to stop completely. We then drove a lap around our test course to cool the brakes and repeated the procedure. This time we accelerated to 60 mph before we slammed on the brakes. Again, the engines downshifted and fought us all the way down. But by the time we slowed down to about 10 mph, the brakes had faded so much that we weren’t able to come to a complete stop. If the driver had less strength or was traveling at higher speeds, they would not be able to slow down nearly as much."

  • Ron H.

    IgotBupkis

    a) The ES 350, IS 250 and IS 350 on my list are Lexus models.

    b) I agree with you that most likely driver error and/or panic contributed to the tragic result in the Saylor case. I agree that there appears to have been plenty of time to do all the things that should have caused the runaway car to stop. We will never know for sure, but the initial problem leading to this event occurring at all, sounds like some kind of "throttle stiction" problem.

    I don't hold CHiPs in particularly high regard as drivers, but they DO have training and hopefully experience in high speed and pursuit driving that should have helped prepared Saylor for an unexpected situation I'm just not sure I would characterize him as incompetent. I didn't know the man personally, so I can't judge his driving ability with any accuracy, but my observations have been that CHiPs drive better than many of the idiots I see every day on the highway.

  • Ron H.

    IgotBupkis

    I realize now, that we are talking about two different recalls. I was referring to an October 2009 recall that focused on possible floormat-jamming-the-throttle-pedal problems that did include Lexus models, and you are referring to the most recent recall that involved the throttle pedal itself, and did not include any Lexus models. Sorry about the confusion.

  • anon

    Nice find, Tim.

    Answers the question -- in at least some cars, the brakes fade before you stop.

    Now we know to slap the gearshift into Neutral or Park as you hit the brakes.

  • A Friend

    A comment to the Consumer Reports website test by Motor Trend and Michelin Test Driver Mac Demere says, "Sorry guys, you're wrong on the second part of this. I've done this test in more than 100 cars, from Tercels to 911s. They all stop. Each one. Every time. With left foot hard on the brakes and right foot hard on the gas, the brakes in a moderately well maintained modern vehicle will always overpower the engine. I've done the test from well north of 100 mph. Makes a godawful noise, but it stops. --Mac Demere." He's the real deal. His bio is here: http://www.naymz.com/mac_demere_38493

    I say, let's get the real Mythbusters to test this. Meanwhile, I will get in my Prius and cheat death on the way home.

  • Highway

    There's more to the Saylor case than has been mentioned in this thread. First, it was in a loaner car, so there was an unfamiliarity with the vehicle, and likely unfamiliarity with the arcane shift patterns that Toyota uses. Second, the Lexus had a push-button start, and it's likely that the driver did not know how to turn off the vehicle. In a Lexus, you have to hold the start button down for 3 seconds to turn it off again. If you push it repeatedly, it will never turn off (apparently Nissans *will* turn off if you push them 3 times rapidly as well, but this varies by manufacturer). Third, Toyota has reported that in that model Lexus, at wide-open-throttle, there is no vacuum generated by the engine. Since power-assisted brakes in that vehicle rely on vacuum, it's likely that the driver ran out of braking assist, tied in with the next point: Fourth, it's reported that the brakes were on fire at the scene of the accident. Just stopping will not allow oxygen in to start a fire, but modulating the brakes will.

    It has been proposed that the driver in this case encountered the stuck wide-open-throttle, and attempted to modulate the brakes to keep the vehicle under control. This kept the speed to highway speeds, but also depleted the vacuum accumulator after 2-3 brake presses. At this point, with no power assist, it would be very difficult to apply enough force to get full braking power out of the car, which contributed to the crash.

    The resulting advice is that if you encounter a stuck wide-open-throttle, apply brakes all the way to the floor and keep them there until you are stopped. You can shift into neutral if necessary, but this will likely break something expensive in your engine. It's a better bet to turn the car off, to accessory mode (which hopefully won't lock the steering), and if you have a pushbutton starter, push and hold it until the car turns off.

  • markm

    When I learned to drive 40 years ago, stuck throttles were far from unknown, especially on the aged clunkers I drove for many years. Ice or rust might block mechanical linkages. Floor mats were often aftermarket, not specifically designed for your car, so seeing that they fit and wouldn't slide around and catch the pedals was your problem. And everything was rear wheel drive, so slamming the brakes and locking the front wheels at highway speeds was really, really not the answer. I'm not a great driver, but I experienced more than one stuck throttle, and I dealt with them without even denting a bumper.

    When you hit the brakes hard enough to slow down the driving wheels against an engine at full-throttle, the non-driving wheels are going to lock. A front-wheel drive still gives you some steering with the rear wheels locked, but it's squirrely - and if there's any difference between the braking force on the front left and front right wheels, it will be very squirrely. Even a very good driver would be lucky to keep the car on the road long enough to stop from 60mph under these conditions.

    Except that a good driver wouldn't keep trying to stop with brakes against a revved-up engine, but would put it in neutral, then brake to a stop. If anyone was killed by stuck accelerators, they ceased being good drivers when they panicked and forgot this. (Unless there are interlocks in the most idiot-proofed automatic transmissions that prevent slamming it into neutral at high speed?)

  • Ron H.

    Highway - you may be right, but I would only expect Mr. Saylor to get a Lexus as a loaner car if he took his own Lexus in for service or repair to a Lexus dealer. I wouldn't expect to get a Lexus loaner if I took my Tercel to a Toyota dealer. So I don't know why he wouldn't be familiar with the car.

    And yes, I realize Lexus is made by Toyota Motors, but is not often sold by Toyota dealers.

  • Boglee

    A while back, when the sudden acceleration thing was real big, I had a rental car (wouldn't do this to my own)
    and from about 50 MPH floored the throttle then with the other foot mashed the brakes. The car stopped. Longer than usual stopping distance and nasty noises, but it did stop. I suspect that most automobiles would do the same.

  • ParatrooperJJ

    There are also some very smart people who think there is also a problem with the engine management computer. It is theorized that there is a intermittent bug in the computer code.

  • anon

    "You can shift into neutral if necessary, but this will likely break something expensive in your engine."

    So will a collision at high speed.

    Slap the f(^&(*ker into neutral and let the rev limiter do its job.

    Don't try to drive while standing on the brakes at high speed and pushing the "off" button for three seconds.

  • LoneSnark

    My aunt refuses to drive great distances since her Toyota Camry tried to kill her last year. The throttle jammed on the highway and the poor deer panicked. Thankfully there was little traffic, but she was not strong enough to slow the car (presumably without engine vacuum) and all she could think to do was scream. Also, but her sisters in the car didn't help, screaming at her as if it was her fault, until one finally woke up, around 100mph and with the brakes smoking, reached over and tried to take the key out of the ignition, shutting off the engine and saving all their lives. She still has that car, although it has been fixed so they say, but she refuses to drive on a highway, which makes no sense to me, as if it had happened on a city street they certainly would have died. But fear is often irrational, I guess.

  • Boglee

    Update...The March issue of Car and Driver has an article on Runaway Toyotas, the upshot is from 70 MPH
    a V6 Camry takes 16 feet further to stop if the throttle is wide open. The key is to make a decision and STOP rather than to try and control the speed until the brakes are cooked.

  • Nick S.

    Guys, no car built this century should have any kind of engine damage if you put it into neutral with the throttle wide open. I had a '97 Chrysler Sebring whose throttle cable was damaged when the car was assembled- the thing stuck wide open going up a hill. Having some experience driving, I shifted into neutral and pulled off the road. The engine revved up to redline, then the engine computer cut spark and fuel timing- the car dropped down to idle, even with the throttle plate wide open. In my experience, that car's electronics were smarter (sanity-wise) than most cars built that era, but I would hope that ALL engine computers these days would have some kind of rev limiter.

    Having an automatic transmission is no excuse for these people- neutral is between Reverse and Drive on every shifter I've ever touched.