Media coverage and criticism
The resulting media coverage from the Toyota recalls came under scrutiny from automotive and general publications. Toyota came in for extensive criticism, with commentators suggesting that emphasis on profits had resulted in manufacturing defects, while AutoWeek, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Popular Mechanics ran editorials criticizing alleged disproportionate coverage of the recalls, with the sentiment echoed in Automotive News, BusinessWeek, and the National Post. In February 2010, Car and Driver executive editor Mike Dushane wrote that the “media circus” overlooked the fact that “the numbers don’t reveal a meaningful problem”, with the alleged fatality risk at about 1 in 200,000 recalled Toyota vehicles, versus a 1 in 8,000 risk of a fatal car accident in any car in the U.S., and that “it’s critical to note that the lack of such a throttle kill isn’t a defect. It isn’t Toyota’s responsibility to account for every possible stupid thing people might do in a car.” On February 10, AutoWeek executive editor Wes Raynal noted that following the recalls, U.S. media reports focused on any Toyota-related complaint as a manufacturer defect, without regard for the actual prevalence and the possibility of alternative explanations, such as driver inattentiveness or erroneous perceptions. Motor Trend editor-at-large Arthur St. Antoine also wrote that the recalls had become the “panic du jour” and faulted CNN’s reporting for not asking about driver skills, being on the cellphone, or texting as causes of accidents.
On February 4, 2010, Consumer Reports’ director of automobile testing David Champion also suggested that the media coverage was disproportionate to the problem, stating that “When you look at the statistics we are putting an awful lot of effort on a very small risk,” noting that the frequency of unintended acceleration complaints was approximately 1 in 10,000 out of 20 million Toyotas on the road. On February 10, Toyota dealers in the five-state Southeast region pulled all advertising from ABC stations in protest of “excessive” reporting on the Toyota recalls. According to news analysis by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the Toyota recalls were the #5 most reported story on U.S. news for the week of January 25–31, 2010, at 4% of all coverage; the following week of February 1–7, 2010, the story reached #2, at 11% of all news coverage. The Associated Press reported on March 5, 2010 that “relentless media coverage” of the Toyota recalls may lead to mass hysteria and an increase in alleged crashes and complaints. Further analysis of the NHTSA complaint database also revealed that many acceleration complaints featured multiple factors, including DUI and reckless driving, which were typically not disclosed in news reports. In July 2010, Forbes faulted the Los Angeles Times for inaccurately reporting on an alleged Toyota runaway crash by failing to mention that the involved driver was indicted for vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of marijuana.
 James Sikes alleged unintended acceleration case
On March 8, 2010, a 2008 Prius allegedly uncontrollably accelerated to 94 miles per hour on a California Highway (US), and the Prius had to be stopped with the verbal assistance of the California Highway Patrol as news cameras watched. The incident received national news coverage, with initial reporting including inaccurate information about the event, such as the claim that a CHP car was used to physically block Sikes’ vehicle. Subsequent investigations uncovered suspicious information about the alleged runaway Prius driver, 61-year old James Sikes, including being US$19,000 behind in his Prius car payments and with $US700,000 in accumulated debt. Sikes stated he wanted a new car as compensation for the incident. Analyses by Edmunds.com and Forbes found Sikes’ acceleration claims and fears of shifting to neutral implausible, with Edmunds concluding that “in other words, this is BS”, and Michael Fumento in Forbes analyzing Sikes’s claims related to the mechanics of his Prius and his own contradictions, such as saying he didn’t want to take his hands off the steering wheel to shift into neutral even though he held a cell phone in his hand almost the entire time, comparing it to the balloon boy hoax. Further government investigator tests on Sikes’s Prius reportedly showed that the brake wear were consistent with intermittent braking, not constant hard braking as he claimed. Sikes also reportedly had a history of false police reports, suspect insurance claims, theft and fraud allegations, and television aspirations. These findings raised questions about “the credibility of Mr. Sikes’ reporting of events” in a Congressional memo.