Freeman Cebu Business

Ironic, isn’t it?

ARE WE THERE YET? - Back Seat Driver - The Freeman

A few days ago, I came across a post on a popular social networking website about an incident that, just like that pest of a needy relative, has happened several times before but, somehow, always seems to be hushed quicker than a government scandal.  I’m talking about SUA or sudden unintended acceleration.  “Ahh, that issue,” I’m sure you’re now saying.  Yes, that issue.

It seems that earlier this year, a gentleman from Laguna has allegedly been the latest unfortunate victim of SUA.  The story goes this way, this gentleman had started to back his sports utility vehicle (SUV) out of his cousin’s garage when it lurched back really fast, causing his vehicle to crash into, and knocked down the concrete fence.  According to his narration, a few minutes after the impact, he had recovered his senses and decided to move the vehicle forward so he could inspect the damage he had caused.  Imagine his surprise when the SUV suddenly accelerated when he shifted to “Drive” from “Park.”  This sudden acceleration caused him to crash into his cousin’s kitchen, causing further damage to the vehicle and his cousin’s property.

This has been a tale that has been told over and again by many owners of the same model SUV who have experienced the same phenomena.  When it was initially thought of to be a one-off incident, it was brushed off as driver error.  But when news started to spread about more and more owners experiencing the same phenomenon, it was clear that there was something wrong.

Initially, the company was firm on its stance that all these occurrences were through no fault of the manufacturer and all the blame lay on the driver.  They even released an official statement claiming that there was no basis at all to label their SUV’s defective.  They even pointed out that SUA phenomenon is not unique to their SUV model and that this has happened to different vehicle manufacturers as well.  And they also stated that, based on various tests and studies conducted, it could never be concluded that the vehicle was ever at fault.

Their excuse ranged from drivers mistaking the accelerator for the brake pedal, to floor mats causing the accelerator to get stuck.  Granting that the second excuse could be plausible, how plausible would it be for every single owner of that model who has been involved in SUA had the same or similar floor mat that would cause the accelerator to get jammed?  Also, shouldn’t the jamming caused by the floor mat be more consistent than just a one-time thing?  That should’ve happened at the onset of the installation of the floor mat.

Now, let’s go to excuse number one.  Granting that there may be a possibility that a driver would confuse the thin accelerator pedal for the fat and wide brake pedal, but isn’t it a safety feature in all automatic transmissions that one cannot shift from park to drive or even reverse if the brake is not depressed?  So how can the driver have shifted from park to any progressive gear if the system does not allow it?  Or is it safe to say that this safety feature is possibly absent or defective in that model?

Whatever the real cause of the SUA is, I think it would be best for that company to conduct a fair, open investigation, and even include the owners who had experienced SUA, to further the development of safety.  Telling your customer that you don’t want to accept your error because you’re embarrassed to admit this to your wife, is really not the way to go.  Besides, despite your firm stance on the vehicle not being at fault, didn’t you issue a recall of these models anyway? 

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