60 Minutes and Its History with Failing at Automotive Coverage

The Toyota unintended acceleration fiasco is probably still fresh in many of our memories. The allegations that pedals were either getting stuck under the floor mats or computer software was causing glitches turned out to be a hugely overblown issue that cost Toyota a heap of cash. The majority of the problems were likely operator error, but once the specter of a recall issue shows its face, it is our fat, Big-Gulp-sucking American way to pass the blame onto some malfunction. Just as many octogenarians were going to mistake the gas pedal for the brake and plow through a storefront, regardless of what car they were driving. This issue was worsened by a 60 Minutes piece where they replicated the one-in-a-million conditions that would lead to an unintended acceleration issue. The conditions were entirely unfair for Toyota, and cost them even more money. (Here is an Audi PR video responding to the claims): http://youtu.be/otyax6onMWw The funny thing is, this was not the first time that the CBS News magazine 60 Minutes torpedoed an automaker. The first time was Audi in 1986, but it was the same old story of journalistic sensationalism. In 1984, Audi sales were up, thanks to its latest product; the 5000. Then a few stories came out that the popular new Audi sedan was taking off on its own, and in a few cases, killed people. In all of these cases, the drivers admitted that their foot "may have slipped off the brake and onto the gas pedal." That did not stop 60 Minutes from attempting to recreate something that had never happened and was never alleged to have happened: they rigged a car to take off on its own. The whole thing was a sham, and CBS never redacted their findings. They even went so far as to call a report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration an "opinion." Listen, I get it, you want ratings and you want headlines, but these kinds of practices give all journalists (yes, even we could consider ourselves intrepid automotive journalists) a bad name. The next time that there is a national scandal that involves an automaker, let's hold accountable those that hold the automaker accountable on national TV.

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