In a statement released Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that its engineers had "recreated the drive Mr. Sikes took" and had "not been able to find anything to explain the incident that Mr. Sikes reported. It is rare to recreate these unintended acceleration incidents except in floor mat entrapment cases."
However, said the statement, "We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car."
James Sikes' attorney, John Gomez, said the tests did not replicate what his client had actually done while driving the car, and did not support the contention of those who believe Sikes faked the incident for profit or publicity.
"There is no reason whatsoever to believe it's a hoax," said Gomez. "And just to be clear, he is not filing a lawsuit, ever. He's not asking for money, ever. So there's no reason for him to make it up."
After Monday's Toyota press conference, Gomez released a statement saying neither he nor his client would have anything further to say until the investigation is completed.
According to the memo, a Congressional observer was present during the inspection and testing of the car by technicians from Toyota and investigators from NHTSA as of 2 p.m. Wednesday. Some inspection of the car had already been conducted by Toyota and NHTSA. Also present were Prius driver James Sikes and his attorney.
Investigators looked at the floor mat and the pedal. Toyota has issued massive recalls to adjust floor mats and pedals in some of its vehicles, and its floor mat recall includes the 2008 Prius.
"The investigators placed the floor mat back into the car and tried to make the gas pedal stick to the floor board, manipulating the floor mat to see if it was possible for the gas pedal to stick.," said the memo. "Both Toyota and NHSTA were unsuccessful."
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Investigators also inspected the brakes on the vehicle. They found that both the front and rear brake pads were nearly gone. Sikes had said that he had applied the brakes throughout the incident, and officers from the California Highway Patrol had seen his brake lights on and smelled his brakes burning.
On Thursday, the inspection resumed. After replacing the brake pads and rotors, technicians test drove the vehicle. They also test drove an identical Prius.
Sikes had said that when his accelerator seemed to stick, he had tried to pull up on the pedal unsuccessfully. A representative of Toyota said that when both the gas pedal and the brake are pushed to the floor, either the car will shut off or the engine will seize up.
A technician drove the Sikes car for two hours, trying to recreate his experience without success. During the test drive, when the technicians pushed both the gas pedal and the brakes to the floor, the car shut off. This was true in both Sikes' car and in the identical Prius, according to Toyota.
"It does not appear to be feasibly possible, both electronically and mechanically," said David Justo of Toyota Motor Sales, who was present for the test, "that his gas pedal was stuck to the floor and he was slamming on the brake at the same time."
At the press conference Monday, Bob Waltz, Toyota Motor Sales vice president for product quality, said that the rear brakes in Sikes' Prius were "fine" and "functional."