Faux News: Automobile Controversies

A growing list of situations where car companies are being torpedoed by reporters. Please note, just because an event is listed here doesn’t mean it’s verified. This blog is merely something to help me organize my brain. This post will change over time.

60 Minutes vs. Audi 5000

to research:

The incident devastated Audi sales in the United States, which did not reach the same level for another fifteen years. The initial incidents which prompted the report were found by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada to have been attributable to operator error, where car owners had depressed the accelerator pedal instead of the brake pedal. CBS issued a partial retraction, without acknowledging the test results of involved government agencies

more links:

thetruthaboutcars.com In Defense of: The Audi 5000 By Paul Niedermeyer on May 3, 2007

Viewers didn’t see the canister of compressed air on the passenger-side floor with a hose running to a hole drilled in the transmission. An “expert” had rigged the Rube Goldberg device to shift the big Audi into drive and, like any automatic-equipped car, move forward (unless the brakes are depressed).

ABC vs Fiat

to research

Dateline NBC vs General Motors pickup trucks

To research:

Dateline NBC producers had rigged the truck’s fuel tank with remotely controlled explosives. The program did not disclose the fact that the accident was staged. GM investigators studied the film, and discovered that smoke actually came out of the fuel tank 6 frames before impact. GM subsequently filed an anti-defamation/libel lawsuit against NBC after conducting an extensive investigation. On Monday, February 8, 1993 GM conducted a highly publicized point-by-point rebuttal in the Product Exhibit Hall of the General Motors Building in Detroit that lasted nearly two hours after announcing the lawsuit. [2] The lawsuit was settled the same week by NBC, and Jane Pauley read a 3 minute 30 second on-air apology to viewers.

Consumer Reports vs. Suzuki Samurai

Via BuisinessWeek h/t Volokh readers:

on Apr. 20, 1988, driver Kevin Sheehan took the Suzuki Samurai through its paces 16 times, some runs going in excess of 50 miles an hour, without ever once lifting the vehicle’s wheels off the ground. Sheehan wrote in his notes: “Easy to control … Never felt it would tip over.”

At that point, driver Richard Small took over and performed 21 runs, at least one at 55 miles an hour, and rated the vehicle “5 plus. No real problems.”

That day Editorial Director Irwin Landau and Technical Director David Pittle were present at the track. And according to the lawsuit, one eyewitness claimed to have heard Landau tell Sheehan, “If you can’t find someone to roll this car, I will.”

David Pittle took the wheel himself nine times and managed to lift the wheels off the ground once. CU then changed the course setup—and would still have trouble getting the Samurai to show a propensity to roll. Somehow that became a nonissue: Consumer Reports proceeded to warn the American public that this was one very dangerous vehicle.

Sales of the Suzuki Samurai fell from 83,314 units to just 5,031 after the Consumer Reports story ran; Suzuki suffered serious damages from the exposé. But the public never heard the worst: When it sued because Consumer Reports continued to disparage the company, Suzuki made copies of actual CU testing video available to the media, so reporters could see just how duplicitous those tests were. Nothing changed.

ABC vs Toyota

AutoGuide.com: Toyota Examines ABC News Expert’s “Unintended Acceleration”, Refutes It


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