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Blame Game

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Blame Game

Revisionist History podcast

The Revisionist History,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

A major car manufacturer gets wrongly blamed for a problem caused by human error. 

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Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Imagine you are driving down a highway and approaching a slower-moving vehicle. You step on the brake, but the car keeps accelerating. The described scenario makes for perfect nightmare material. When it happened in real life, Toyota – the manufacturer of the vehicle involved – endured public vilification for putting driver safety at risk. But did it happen? Is it technically possible for cars to accelerate on their own while the driver is hitting the brake? Malcolm Gladwell seeks answers to the Toyota acceleration mystery in a Revisionist History podcast episode that will intrigue even those who don’t consider themselves car people.


Toyota was forced to recall millions of cars in 2009 and 2010 due to a series of unexplainable incidents of gas pedals getting stuck.

On August 28, 2009, highway patrol officer Mark Saylor was driving down Highway 125 in San Diego County with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law. He was driving a new Toyota Lexus ES, on loan from his dealership while his own car was in repair. The routine drive turned into a nightmare: Saylor’s brother-in-law made a panicked phone call to 911, claiming that the car’s gas pedal was stuck and that the car was spinning out of control. Saylor ended up driving the car down a ravine, killing everyone inside the car. The recording of the 911 phone call went viral. Everyone immediately pointed fingers at car maker Toyota and the vehicle’s allegedly faulty gas pedal. Hundreds of Toyota drivers started to share similar stories of their cars accelerating inexplicably. An estimated 90 people died as a result of such incidents, and Toyota saw itself forced to recall 10 million vehicles in 2009 and 2010.

In 2014, US attorney general Eric Holder publicly scolded Toyota for failing to make driver safety its foremost priority, and the...

About the Podcast

In each episode of Revisionist History, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell offers new views about an event, a person or an idea from the past.

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