Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why James Sikes Is a Hybrid Hero

Step aside Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. James Sikes might just become the hybrid movement�"s most recognized celebrity.

James Sikes

For the past several weeks, media and government officials have stirred widespread public concern about the safety of the Toyota Prius�publishing first and investigating later (if at all). But the truthfulness of the most publicized incident so far�what might be described as cross between the Balloon Boy Hoax and the OJ Simpson Highway Chase�is coming under increasing scrutiny.

According to Fox News, USA Today, and other sources, Sikes�"s background is checkered with problems: a police record for grand theft, a filing for bankruptcy, and ownership of a swingers website where users can post erotic photos.

Of course, Sikes�"s questionable background doesn�"t prove that the Prius and other Toyota vehicles are free of technical safety issues�any more than a series of reported problems is proof positive of major safety glitches. In fact, investigators may never come to a definitive conclusion about reported Prius acceleration cases.

Nonetheless, revelations that the Sikes incident might have been hoax could slow down media and government from knee-jerk reactions. In that sense, Sikes could be credited as the man who convinced the public to question if Prius safety questions are more hype than reality. Hybrid cars have long been a lightning rod for strong feelings for pro-hybrid eco-types and the anti-hybrid crowd who see Prius drivers as smug, wimpy or simply misdirected.

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