By on May 3, 2007

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[Update: this article has been updated and re-published here]

When I first heard about the Audi “sudden unintended acceleration” segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1986, I knew immediately that they were blowing smoke. Literally.

A few years earlier, I was part of a TV crew shooting an educational program. Legendary race-car driver Parnelli Jones was the guest celebrity. The producer offered to take us to lunch in his 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. We hopped in. Parnelli took the wheel.

Parnelli fired up the Caddy’s big V8, dropped it in gear and floored it- with his other foot on the brake. The left rear wheel lit up in a screeching howl; the car was soon engulfed in a cloud of acrid smoke. The Caddy didn’t move an inch- obviously. And neither did Parnelli, glancing at the wincing producer with his wicked grin. I had assumed (wrongly) that race-car drivers grew up eventually.

The experience seared in a lesson in basic automobile physics: brakes are always more powerful than engines, even when they have 500 cubic inches (8.2 liters). Too bad we didn’t have our cameras running. We could have made a graphic rebuttal to 60 Minutes’ fraudulent destruction of Audi.

Let’s set the scene. It’s 1984. Audi sales had shot up 48 percent on the strength of their new aero-dynamic 5000, the hot new weapon in the perpetually-escalating suburban driveway status war. It was a stunning piece. Audi was on a roll.

Suddenly, the war turned bloody. Moms in runaway Audi 5000’s were mowing down their little kids in the driveway and pinning granny against the far garage wall.

This hadn’t happened with the Olds Cutlass Supreme Coupe, the “hot” suburban car Mom traded in for her Audi. The German car certainly felt different. Unlike the Olds’ wide push-bar brake pedal– that some Americans still operated with their left feet– the Audi had that weird, small brake pedal, kinda’ close to the gas pedal.

And these Audis had a mind of their own. No matter how hard Mom pushed on the brake pedal, the Audi kept on going, right through the garage door. This despite the fact that the little five-cylinder mill only cranked out 130 horsepower. And the top-notch four-wheel disc brake system probably could generate well over 600 g-force horsepower.

Apparently, the brakes were failing at exactly the same moment that the gas pedal decided it had a mind of its own. Perfectly plausible, at least to the 60 Minutes crew.

About as plausible as ignoring the police report of the most dramatic victim on the show, Kristi Bradosky, who ran over her six year old son. That report said “Bradosky’s foot slipped off the brake pedal onto the gas pedal accelerating the auto.” Denial isn’t just a river.

Ed Bradley’s 17 minute “investigative report” aired on November 23, 1986. Between interviews of the teary-eyed “victims” (drivers) of unintended acceleration swearing their feet were on the brake pedal, CBS showed a clip of a driverless Audi lurching forward on its own.

Viewers didn’t see the canister of compressed air on the passenger-side floor with a hose running to a hole drilled in the transmission. An “expert” had rigged the Rube Goldberg device to shift the big Audi into drive and, like any automatic-equipped car, move forward (unless the brakes are depressed).

The clip was blatantly deceptive AND totally irrelevant. Nobody claimed driverless Audis were taking off and killing kids. Mom was always at the wheel, pushing the 5000’s “brake” pedal with all her might.

In 1989, after three years of studying the blatantly obvious, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued their report on Audi’s “sudden unintended acceleration problem.” NHTA’s findings fully exonerated Audi and some other implicated foreign makes.

The report concluded that the Audi’s pedal placement was different enough from American cars’ normal set-up (closer to each other) to cause some drivers to mistakenly press the gas instead of the brake. 60 Minutes did not retract their piece; they called the NHTSA report “an opinion.”

A flood of lawsuits was already washing over Audi, not to mention a tsunami of bad publicity. Audi took a questionable stance: they didn’t blame the drivers for the problem, even after the NHTSA report came out. Hey, the customer’s always right, and we sure wouldn’t want to make our American customers look stupid. Anything but that.

So the German automaker took it on the chin. Audi sales collapsed, from 74k units in 1984 to 12k by 1991. The timing added insult to injury; sales fell during the same years when Lexus arrived to battle for the hearts and wallets of America’s up-scale consumers. The Japanese autos quickly became the new suburban driveway prestige weapon.

Audi’s wanna-be-Lexus drivers launched a class action suit charging lost resale value. No wonder the brand almost abandoned the U.S. in 1993. It’s a killer market.

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77 Comments on “In Defense of: The Audi 5000...”


  • avatar
    Vega

    If the majority of US customers considers clueless soccer moms and greedy, ruthless lawyers as the acid test for all automotive innovation, I guess they get the cars they deserve.

    In addition, this story also proves that not showing any interest in cars and driving is not only stupid, but also dangerous. Many people may see their car as an appliance, however if you screw up using your dishwasher, it will not kill anybody. Your car however…

    I’m beginning to think that the biggest problem for the US car industry is not unions or overcapacity, but most consumers not being interested in innovation or driving in general.

  • avatar

    Audi to VAG: send lawyers, guns and money. My father owned a 5000 and just laughed when he saw the 60 Minutes segment. And then trade-in time arrived… 

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Happened to a whole host of other cars too, but they didn’t get the benefit of the compressed air bottle and 60 minutes. Audi took the teutonic stance that “‘is impossible” and took it on the chin. No spin, absolutely no PR.

    Years later Suzuki got accused of rollover problems. Almost within minutes, they widened the track of their mini SUV and all was (almost) forgiven.

    As with iDrive in the BMWs, German stubbornness was Audis’ downfall, no fault of the car itself.

    Standard shift Audis never encountered the problem, because drivers of standard shift cars presumably know how to drive.

  • avatar

    I think the cars being junk probably hurt resale (in the long run) more than the 60 minutes piece.

    Also, my moms 4 cylinder 84 Cherokee would pull out of the brakes in low range. It took a whole lotta floorin though :)

  • avatar
    daro31

    Ya, got to love the lawyers and 60 minutes, in 1989 I bought a 1987 Audi Quatro Turbo with 47,000 KM. (Canada) for $6,700 and put 350,000 trouble free kilometers on it before getting rid of it. Still looked great and ran well but all of those teeney brittle wires through the doors to run windows, door locks and windows wear getting to me with their breaking. Best bargain of a car I hever had. Anyone know if 60 minutes is working on anymore made up car problems?

  • avatar
    shaker

    I routinely find myself confounded by the brake/tranny interlock in rental sleds (I drive a stick), and always thank 60 Minutes.

    Also, anyone remember the (Chevy?) pickup gas tank fiasco?

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    Back in the day, I had an ’84 Audi AND an 85 Cherokee – neither of which was my “Mom’s” car as I actually onwed them and drove them regularly. (Good grief!!) In other words, I have real experience on the Audi. It was great car – albeit a little underpowered off the line. But when that 5 cylinder got humming, it was great – especially on the highway. I, as many owners of the time, knew the 60 Minutes piece was crap. But what could we do? Claim there were WMD’s hidden in the studio? Hey, wait, now that I think about it.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I remember that one, and Dateline NBC admitted having to rig the truck with explosives to make sure it detonated on impact.

  • avatar
    kkop

    A lot of Americans still drive with their left foot on the brake, as evidenced by cars accelerating and driving down the road with their brake lights on.

    And it’s not just old grannies either.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I remember hearing about the Audi 5000 when I was 9 back in 1986. Of course, I couldn’t drive then, but I knew that running over people in your Audi wasn’t good. Based on how stupid a lot of adults are, they would have been thinking the same thing as a 9 year old kid. Audi = Bad, can’t buy an Audi! I hate automatics, and the people that can’t be bothered to learn a 5 speed.

    kkop: I see plenty of that here in Maine. It’s mind-boggling to see it in action. More manufacturers need to make it impossible to do this. It’s not possible in my Jetta TDI, since it’s a drive by wire system. I tried it once for fun, but it shuts the fuel flow off to the engine until you let up on either the go pedal or the brake pedal.

  • avatar
    mikey

    After the pickup truck lie from Date line NBC tried to bury it.
    GM in a rare moment of good management forced NBC to retract/apologize,under the threat of pulling advertisement.

    I think a couple of producers got canned.
    I never bought into the Audi story either.How the hell can it move forward at the same time your foot is on the brake?
    Christine was a 58 Fury not an AUDI

  • avatar
    mdanda

    My Dad had both a 1984 and 1985 Audi 5000. It DID surge occasionally.

    It would surge in small amounts, maybe +-250RPM or so, but it would SURGE unexpectedly.

    So we believed the story.

  • avatar
    ctrlz

    It is easy to blame the stupid drivers that couldn’t figure out a pedal arrangement. But, Audi seems to lack usability in some aspects of it’s design to this day.

    Audi parking brake/ armrest configuration, anyone?

  • avatar
    skor

    According to the media, certain 70’s-80’s vintage Fords, with column shift auto transmissions, would shift from park into reverse and run over their owners — like something out of a Stephen King horror novel.

    My father owned such a car, and, while it was an unreliable POS, it did stay parked if you actually placed the lever in park.

    After the media, and lawyers had their way, Ford sent a letter to my father that included an orange warning sticker. The sticker was to be placed over the shift indicator and said something to the effect of “Place Shift lever in Park Before Leaving Vehicle”.

    Show me something that is idiot proof, and I’ll show you something only an idiot would want.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I had a girlfriend with a 5000. I used to drive it all the time. that car was badass.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    This was a usability issue, so the best thing audi could do was to widen the brake pedal… And advertise the hell out of it – “150% more pedal area! Safer than ever! Idiot-proof!”

    Seriously, when you try to penetrate the market, you play by that market’s rules. If your future buyers are idiots who need a wide-ass pedal, then that’s what you have to give to them.

    On the other hand, I hate wide brake pedals on autos. I always instinctively try to press the clutch in emergency situation; once I was driving a huge empty diesel truck, and had to brake a bit faster than expected. So, I pressed on the brake pedal with the right foot, and I pressed the clutch as hard as I could with my left… Only there was no clutch, it was one WIDE brake pedal. If my passengers weren’t buckled up, they would fly out through the windshield :)

  • avatar

    I had an ’86 5000 Turbo. While it exhibited sudden acceleration, it never was unintended.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    A little more on NBC’s GM pickup fiasco. The GM pickup had gas tanks mounted outside the frame. It seemed plausible that it was a more dangerous design than a tank inside the frame rails. But Dateline couldn’t get the thing to light off in a collision. One of their ‘producers’ decided to encourage combustion via Estes solid fuel model rocket engines. These are about the size of a shotgun shell and can hurl 6oz or so of model rocket hundreds of feet in the air. Houston, we have lift-off…. The malfeasance was spotted in a frame by frame review of the show segment. GM was Not Amused and Phillips and Pauley had to grovel live. But they had no class doing it; the rocket engines were referred to as ‘sparkers’. Sure, and a .45 round is a noise maker. That was one of the last of the so-called news shows I ever wasted my time watching.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    My in-laws have the Jeep Grand Cherokee that allegedly likes to slip out of Park and into Reverse. Somehow, they haven’t been run over by it yet. My parents have owned a Ford Explorer for years, and never rolled it. I had to engage in a high-speed emergency avoidance type maneuver with it one night, and lived to tell the tale. I wonder how many other ‘problems’ there are that drivers get blamed for. The car may have exacerbating factors, but still, if I mashed on a pedal and it had the opposite of the intended effect, I certainly wouldn’t press harder.

    I too have been guilty of mashing on the brake pedal with my left foot, looking for the clutch. MOST embarrassing. Everyone in the car that drives an automatic gives you dirty looks, everyone that drives a stick laughs at you and shares stories about how they’ve done that, too.

    Great article, Paul.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I think that was the largest piece of auto propaganda since the Corvair. I think that well intentioned amateurs may be the most dangerous people in the world. But, as the gentleman said, it sure made for some cheap, high quality mileage from the used Audi market, which I also enjoyed thoroughly.

  • avatar

    Anytime the “news media” reports about a subject matter I have extensive, technical experience of, they inevitably get it wrong. Sometimes VERY wrong, sometimes just annoying little mistakes… usually for “cuteness” or spin value.

    Therefore, why should I believe them when they present me with reports about ANYTHING?

    I stopped watching TV news a LONG time ago.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    TV’s so called ‘News-Magazines’ have always had a large number of shallow, one-sided, hatchet jobs.

    What’s refreshing is that TODAY the j-school actor-clowns at CBS couldn’t run the Audi piece without (another) serious integrity hit. They finally learned after Dan Blather’s rep was destroyed by guys in pajamas.

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    @ Vega: It is possible to kill yourself with a dishwasher. There is at least one documented case where a maintenance worker managed to blow up a household dishwasher by turning it on. After the Naval investigation was conducted, they concluded that the H and the O2 had separated in the supply line over time and caused a significant H build up, which caused the dishwasher to explode. The Navy was kind enough to place blame fully on their maintenance worker. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • avatar
    mdanda

    tony-e-30:
    Yes, that is why bottled water has an expiration date. Given time, the 0xygen and Hydrogen can separate and each by themselves if very flammable. A case of expired bottle water is like a time bomb in your kitchen. I am making this up. But it is possible, I suppose.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    My worst nightmare: stuck in a toll-booth line up behind a pinto (explosive fuel tank) and an Audi 5000 behind me. With regards to that pickup fiasco, GM should have sued them big time to teach them a lesson.

  • avatar
    LK

    IIRC, they also went after the Cherokee for the same thing – people were hitting the wrong pedal because the large transmission tunnel (due to the I6) meant that the pedals were shifted slightly to the left. However, I’ve owned 3 different Cherokees and never had a problem with them…other than the fact that they stopped making them.

    Plus, as Paul mentioned the brakes will generally win – with the only exception I can think of being one of my old farm trucks with a modified 460 and only one functioning brake (passenger front). Not sure what would happen if I nailed the brake and gas at the same time, but I’m pretty sure it would be highly entertaining.

    The Jeep CJ rollover thing was another joke – seriously, anybody who doesn’t realize that a short-wheelbase, narrow vehicle with a high center of gravity might roll over should probably not be driving a car in the first place. IIRC, one of the cases they discussed was a guy who was off-roading with the doors taken off, not wearing a seatbelt, and when he ran up on a sidehill he fell out and the Jeep rolled over on him. Seriously, how is this possibly Jeep’s fault?

    The only case which might have had a little merit was the problems with Ford’s cruise controls – since I owned an ‘89 Lincoln that had the problem. If you set the cruise, at any point until you shut the car off it might decide to resume the previously set speed. While this never caused an accident, it was a bit surprising when you were in traffic at 45 and suddenly the car tries to accelerate to 70…and even when you hit the brakes it would sometimes take 5-10 seconds before the cruise deactivated. In the summer it was no big deal, but you quickly learned *never* to set the cruise in the winter if you might drive on a slippery road at some point…having your vehicle suddenly decide to accelerate on black ice can be rather unpleasant.

  • avatar
    miked

    “Also, my moms 4 cylinder 84 Cherokee would pull out of the brakes in low range. It took a whole lotta floorin though :)”

    Yup, Jeeps have a 4:1 Low Range right? So that’d be a 4x multiplicaiton on your torque. What’s really funny are the serious off roaders who run dual transfer cases. They generally run on 2.2:1 low range and one 4:1 low range. So in double low, that’s an 8.8:1 torque multiplication plus if you have an automatic, you get extra multiplaction from the torque converter. It’s impossible to stop the truck in gear even while its idleing. You need to pop it in neutral to stop.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Ever since GM called out NBC on the model rocket igniter incident I have noticed that NBC jumps on every little bit of bad news for GM. Or at least they used to up until recently – there just too much bad to report it all now. Still – I’m no fan of GM but it’s obvious that it’s still payback time at NBC.

    And – with god as my witness – I had a 1997 Wrangler (TJ?) sliding sideways at 50 MPH top down and recovered. An old lady made a left turn right in front of me at a very dangerous intersection. With a CJ I would probably have rolled however.

    Agreed that it’s mostly in the drivers hands. But lawyers have forced engineers to design for the lowest common denominator.

    All of my vehcles have been manual trans for a couple of decades. And more than once when borrowing an slush box vehicle I have accidentally stomped on the brake pedal like it’s a clutch. Gets more than a few stares – epecially without ABS.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    it wasn’t all bad. The 5000 is an awesome car; people with half a brain benefitted when dimwitted suburbanites traded it in for a Taurus wanting to be safe.

    No mention of the 5000 Turbo Quattro? Come on now.

  • avatar
    Paul Milenkovic

    Never been in an Audi 5000, but I did test drive a VW Quantum (remember those? It was the Audi 5000 badge twin) when I was car shopping (settled on a NUMI Nova at that time).

    It had a kind of odd offset layout of the gas and brake peddle. I suppose it was meant to be new and improved for a faster switch from gas to brake. I never thought for a moment that I would punch the wrong peddle, but the peddles did seem offset from what I was used to.

    The show stopper for me is that I suffer from episodes of low back pain, and I imagined getting a crick in my back from the offset gas peddle position. Whether that would have hurt my back or not is a guess, but I suppose the customer is king and I bought the Nova instead of the Quantum.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I too have stomped the brake to the floor when approaching a stoplight in an automatic. Maybe manual gearbox drivers could have a class action lawsuit and get autos banned. With 95% of the traffic gone tomorrow, we’re all winners.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I had an 85 Audi Coupe with a 5 cylinder and a 5 speed manual. It is still my personal benchmark for tight, fast, teriffic steering, balanced, did i say fast? Most car fun I’ve had in a car that was so large. Usually you get those reflexes in very small sports cars. I was, and still am, impressed with that vehicle.

    I do not watch any news programs.

  • avatar

    NICKNICK:
    Maybe manual gearbox drivers could have a class action lawsuit and get autos banned.

    Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    +1 for the automatic brake stomp. I’d never done it til my dad told me to watch out for it. Of course I did it 5 minutes later.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Well, while I tend to agree that the scenario isn’t possible when things are to spec and the problem was with clueless drivers and greedy lawyers, the example offered for comparison, with a rear wheel drive and very different car, is just as theatrical and unrealistic.

    Put a front wheel car into a cloud of smoke this way. Maybe eventually from the auto gearbox, LOL.

    I loved the 5000’s. and Audi’s in general then. While they really were a sideline and the customers a bit of a PITA, we sure did make money working on the POS. Not only that, everyone in the family would be driving one for almost free, you could pick them up all day long for less then a grand and fix them with relatively little.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    Didn’t Porsche come under the gun for similar pedal arrangement to the Audi?

    I too have mashed the brake pedal with the clutch foot. I have an auto and a manual car, and I make that mistake two or three times a year.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Front wheel drive car

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    Maybe manual gearbox drivers could have a class action lawsuit and get autos banned. With 95% of the traffic gone tomorrow, we’re all winners.

    Wow, I never thought of that one. Perfect!

  • avatar
    LK

    Cavendel: Back in the early ’90s I raced two nearly identical cars, except one was a manual and one an auto. I ended up going to a junkyard and taking a brake pedal off a manual car, and bolting it into my car with the auto to get consistent pedal size/placement between the vehicles. Maybe this would be an option, assuming that your vehicle with an auto was also available as a manual. I did switch the pedals back around before I sold that car, as I was worried about liability issues.

    I also had one where I switched a manual car over to an auto, but kept the old pedals (including the clutch)…that really tended to confuse the folks who borrowed it. I considered modifying it so that you had to push in the clutch to shift the tranny out of ‘park’, but decided that would probably be a bit too peculiar.

  • avatar
    Drew

    Anytime the “news media” reports about a subject matter I have extensive, technical experience of, they inevitably get it wrong. Sometimes VERY wrong, sometimes just annoying little mistakes… usually for “cuteness” or spin value.

    Yep. They’ve reported on a few things that I happen to be quite knowledgeable on and every time they get it wrong. Usually so wrong that the public would have been better served by having no story whatsoever run rather than whatever tripe they spew forth.

    The staff of 60 minutes couldn’t find their collective ass with both hands, a map, and a flashlight.

    Calling anything that appears on US TV (other than the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer) “news” is like calling a Twinke a “fine French pastry”. Gag.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Hippo: “front wheel drive car”

    Are you suggesting that makes a difference, per se? If the torque of the engine is greater than one individual brake (assuming no locking differential), than that one wheel will go up in smoke, front or back.

    Obviously, a 5000 wouldn’t likely have enough hair on its chest to do that. But the point is the same: whether one wheel breaks loose or not, the rest of the brakes will hold the car.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Paul,

    It makes a huge difference in the visual, the car would never “be engulfed in a cloud of acrid smoke”

    Of course the front wheel cars engine can’t overcome the brakes either, but on a front wheel drive car the wheels will not turn when you try.

    Front wheel brakes are much more powerful then rear wheel brakes regardless of car configuration, real easy to hold the car with the brakes and spin the rear wheels with a rear wheel drive car. On a front wheel car you are putting the power into the stronger brakes, the engine will never cause either front wheel to move if the driver is trying hard to use the brake. Sure you can cause one of the front wheels to spin with a open diff while threshold braking, but you are manufacturing the effect.

    So while the underlying premise may be correct, the “visual” is pure fabrication over dramatization.

  • avatar

    Hippo:

    Wind?

  • avatar
    Gottleib

    If what I am reading here is true, maybe this global warming being broadcast by the news media is also a bunch of bunk.

    Twinkies are fine French pastry, they are really and one of my favorites so be careful what you say about them.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    ??

    I was editing trying to clarify.

    You guys are much better then me with the pen or the keyboard.

    I’m still convinced that if as mentioned originally with the Caddy, you get into the 5000, stomp on the brakes hard, give it full throttle and hold it there long enough, you never spin a wheel, no smoke, except eventually from cooked trans fluid if the POS doesn’t blow up first.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    I bought a 1986 5000cs model in 1991–first car out of college. Paid $5000 (overpaid) for it, ran it for 2 years, and sold it for $2500. The “cs” had fancier wheels and suede leather. I had the stick-shift model, which was very easy and economical to drive. I got about 25 MPG around town and 34 MPG on the highway on low octane fuel. One great feature I’ve never seen in a car since was a detent about 2/3 of the way through the motion of the accelerator pedal. By pushing exactly to that point when accelerating, if could get perfectly consistent acceleration and thus perfectly predictable shift timing.

    One humorous story about the car. When my mother was visiting me she took it out for the day after dropping me at work. When she came back in the evening she reported that “the car engine was making a lot of noise on the highway, but then I discovered it was a 4 speed.” (She had not driving a stick-shift in about 20 years.) Of course, actually, the car was a 5 speed; she had been driving 2 gears down.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    “Uh, Officer, thank you very much for stopping me and saving my life. I think my bimmer has the sudden unintended acceleration problem. The brake pedal is ridiculously close to the gas pedal and the gas pedal is 3 times as long as the brake pedal (those idiotic Germans mentioned something about it being easier for heel toe and stuff). I was meaning to brake but somehow the car unintentially accelarated to over a 100 when I blew by you. I may need you to be a witness for my upcoming lawsuit against those Germans. My lawyer will contact you, okay? Can I go now?”

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Gottleib:
    “If what I am reading here is true, maybe this global warming being broadcast by the news media is also a bunch of bunk.”

    Yup, pretty much anything that has a tax as a “solution” is bunk. The frenzy the media has whipped up practically has the public *begging* to be taxed on CO2. And governments the world over will be laughing and laughing…cui bono

  • avatar
    miked

    LK:
    “I also had one where I switched a manual car over to an auto, but kept the old pedals (including the clutch)…that really tended to confuse the folks who borrowed it. I considered modifying it so that you had to push in the clutch to shift the tranny out of ‘park’, but decided that would probably be a bit too peculiar.”

    I’ve always wanted to do something similar to this. Execpt in my idea, the clutch pedal would control the solenoid for torque converter lockup. Put the clutch pedal in, the torque converter spins like normal, let the clutch pedal and the torque converter is locked. It’d be kinda wierd having the pedal in during acceleration, but I think it’d be a fun way to have control over the lockup.

  • avatar
    Drew

    Gottleib:
    “If what I am reading here is true, maybe this global warming being broadcast by the news media is also a bunch of bunk.”

    A little bit of logic can go a long way.

    There’s a difference between something that reputable scientists are saying and that the news media is also talking about vs something that the media cooks up themselves.

    A tax isn’t the only solution to the C02 problem anyway. I’m generally anti-tax, but saying that ‘pretty much anything that has a tax as a “solution” is bunk’ is remarkably simplistic. Taxes pay for the roads that we use, and for the educational system. Are those bunk as well?

    The issue is one of financial externalities. The market is excellent at pushing as many costs as possible into the externality category. What this means is that nobody pays the true cost of a good, but something less.

    Example: gas is about $3.30/gal where I live. But the true cost of that gallon would have to include its share of the subsidies given to the oil companies, any environmental costs that I’ll have to pay for down the road, the health care I subsidize for people who breathe smog, any military spending that we use to protect the oilfields, etc, etc.

    I already pay all of these external costs – they come out of my federal taxes every paycheck. So, that $3.30 gallon of gas might be more like $5 or $6. If gas was actually priced at it’s true value – $6 at the pump in this example – people wouldn’t need any more incentive to change their behavior. No taxes. No arguing over semantics.

    But that’s not good for the quarterly balance sheet. it would be good in the long run, but I don’t have to tell anybody at TTAC that most US company’s definition of the long run is “this fiscal year”. Sucks for those of us in the middle class.

  • avatar
    Fuzzydog

    “I think the cars being junk probably hurt resale (in the long run) more than the 60 minutes piece.

    Also, my moms 4 cylinder 84 Cherokee would pull out of the brakes in low range. It took a whole lotta floorin though :) ”

    ah…I could be insulting but….

    I currently own both – a 1988 Audi 5000 Turbo Quattro Avant (wagon) and a 1990 Jeep Cherokee.

    “cars are junk”??? 300,000kms and not a thing wrong with it. all wheel drive, 4 wheel disc brakes, 4 wheel ABS, 5 spd, turbo power, power windows, heated seats, sunroof, power locks, leather, etc, etc, etc and on and on and I would not trade it for anything. Why? because I stay up on the maintenance! without exception, I would say that the people who have owned these and called them junk just didn’t keep up on the maintenance.

    and, uh, oh yeah, are you serious about the cherokee brake comments? those vehicles have got to have the worst POS brakes on the planet – they are downright dangerous. A hamster in a wheel could overpower those brakes. So which is the junk? I love my jeep, now that I have modified it and fixed what the engineers got wrong, but my 2 years older Audi is far and away a better vehicle in every regard (except for rock crawling, I guess)

  • avatar
    Matt51

    I was working for GM and given a new car every three months. I was given the Olds Bravada SUV. Had my family in the car, just shifted into reverse in my driveway. A sickening max acceleration backwards occured. I thought the car would hit my neighbors house across the street. I hit the brakes and burned rubber all the way down the driveway. The tire marks could be seen all the way. Neighbors heard the commotion and came out to see what had happened.
    Fortunately the car stopped.
    My foot was not on the gas. The car clearly moved while I was braking as hard as I could.
    I was told by the woman who handled the car program that the S10 and its derivatives had a lot of “unintended” accelerations. In fact, a popular car dealer in Columbus IN had just been killed at an auto show where an S10 took off and squished him against a wall.
    No, it is not just people hitting the gas by mistake. It really has happened.
    And the other poster was correct, Audi 5000 was a pos from a reliability standpoint.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    If you hit the brakes and burned rubber, you probably didn’t hit the brakes.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    The comeback of Audi, since 1989, is to my mind nothing short of miraculous. In the fall of that year, I can remember driving the ’90 Audis at a trackside event at Pacific Raceways, designed to demonstrate ABS, with some folks lucky enough to ride with Bobby Unser Jr., who was in attendance. The rain poured on that October day at Pacific Raceways in Kent, and once you got used to the entire car chattering, the value of ABS was proven.

    A few days later, then head of Audi USA, a big burly former Marine named Richard Mugg, assured those assembled to scribble notes, that “Audi was coming back.” I remember thinking he had the epitome of wishful thinking; but as the late Molly Ivins might say, “Who wudda thunk” that Audi was be competing favorably with Mercedes-Benz and even Porsche, by 2007?

    Mr. Mugg made the point that Audi had worked with the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in tearing apart the transmissions from several Audi 5000; and never found a thing that would explain the “unintended acceleration” rear-ward the drivers on “60 Minutes” experienced. He also said – I have never seen it – that “60 Minutes” publicly apologize – but only for rigging one car up to run sans driver and not very convincingly.

    The thing is, most any manufacturer selling cars in America has to “dumb down” the product for the general American consumer. Yes, the enthusiast might want all the pedals – accelerator, brake and clutch (for cars with one) – in a row, so as to better perform the tricky manuever of heel-and-toe. But for the average American driver, who these days is likely more engaged in a heated cell phone conversation, it is best to stagger at least one of those pedals; as well as keep them different sizes.

    But I can still recall showing an Audi a few years back to my pal, Larry Dreon, owner/operator of Daisywagen (sic) Foreign Car Service who noted the tiny pedals, all in a row, and said,”You’d think Audi would’ve learned.”

    It seems now that Audi is being bought by a different kind of driver. But then again, I could be wrong.

  • avatar
    Fuzzydog

    quote “And the other poster was correct, Audi 5000 was a pos from a reliability standpoint”

    So please, tell us, how many Audis have you owned?

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Sorry to defecate on this lovely parade, but my ’86 GTI did indeed deliver lots of acceleration, including the unintended kind.

    Oh, it had nothing to do with the pedals. It was a faulty plunger in the throttle linkage, driven by a solenoid. I’d be cruising at, say, a steady 30, and my steed would suddenly rear back on its figurative haunches and surge to about 45.

    This was one of about 55 defects the car suffered before I literally lost count. A shock came loose and pounded out the rear package shelf. Screw caps fell off all over the interior. The air failed on the first warm day I owned the car. The odo went bad at about 30,000 miles. The driver’s seat literally snapped under my butt as I jumped in (and I wasn’t even fat yet!).

    And finally, the clincher: the day after I got the car back from L’affaire Driver’s Seat, the car suddenly couldn’t generate enough power to get out of the driveway under full throttle. It bucked, surged and died all the way to the shop. The cause turned out to be a broken screw holding down the distributor cap. Talk about variable timing. I decided the next day to unload it.

    Through all this, the dealer was worthless and the zone office was worse (“that 45-minute tow from your home to the dealership was outside our free radius—pay the difference,” and “we’ve found your part now that we’ve had your month-old car for a week—we’re getting it in by SECOND-DAY air”). Pardon me for feeling VW/Audi had/has zero credibility when it comes to customer support. Yeah, maybe the owners were hitting the gas instead of the brake. Let’s just say the company whose cars they were doing it in wasn’t exactly the Nordstrom’s of German rolling stock.

    By the way, any of you up on what they did to their more recent owners of 4-cylinder Passats when the coils went bad, one cylinder at a time? Google that.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Matt51:

    Pedal confusion or The Twighlight Zone.

  • avatar
    evohappy9

    60 Minutes mendaciously presenting the “facts”??? Say it ain’t so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Drew: “Taxes pay for the roads that we use, and for the educational system. Are those bunk as well?”

    The only taxes that should go to the roads are gasoline taxes. Only usage fees are fair. If you don’t use the road, or you ride a moped that uses little gas (and does no damage to the road), no problem. You wanna drive a leviathan, get ready to pay for your pollution and your road wear. If regular taxes were eliminated, we could afford the $8/gallon that appropriately road-taxed gasoline would cost.

    As for schools–are we really getting a fair deal for what we pay? Our goverment schools (public isn’t an accurate description) teach nothing more than basic obedience and socialization (and don’t you *ever* question authority). On the other hand, they do serve as holding pens and keep the miscreants out of my home while i work.

  • avatar
    Matt51

    Paul- as God is my witness, it was not pedal confusion.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Matt51:

    Then you were in The Twighlight Zone. And you weren’t the the first. And probably not the last.

  • avatar
    Bill E. Bobb

    84-88 Audi 5000 Faults, From Memory:
    Radiator plastic tank overflow broken off. Water pump leaks. Hydro (combo PS/PB) boost pump leak, PS high pressure hose failure, PS Rack assembly leak/failure; hydro brake pressure accumuator failure; intake valve carbon build up (walnut shell blast cure), faulty idle air control valve (idle surge), injector o-ring intake air leaks; fuel distributors, A/C compressor, electronic control head (GM part) A/C blower power stage; heater core failure; all four power window regulators and switches; all four belt moulding/window squeegees (curled from UV), Automatic transmission failure; front wheel bearings/hubs; front brake rotor warpage; and I’m sure many others I’m forgetting.

    Tell ya 2 things: Never did a set of main bearings on an Audi straight 5( tough motor!) ; and CBS still sucks.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Long live the type 44!

  • avatar
    fellswoop

    Paul Milenkovic:

    Never been in an Audi 5000, but I did test drive a VW Quantum (remember those? It was the Audi 5000 badge twin) when I was car shopping (settled on a NUMI Nova at that time).

    My GF in High School had a Quantum, 5 speed. I credit that car with starting a lifelong love of driving.

    I’m pretty darn sure that it was NOT the A5K badge twin..it was the badge twin of the Audi 4000 instead (the Audi 80 version B2)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audi_80
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VW_Quantum

  • avatar

    I’ve gotta say I have had problems with modern Euro cars. The Citroen Xantia I drove has such close tiny pedals that it was lamost impossible not to blip the throttle while braking.
    Perhaps the Euros wear narrower shoes..seriously.. my size 13 feet wearing dress shoes were a challenge.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    In my area north of boston, there has been a lot of press recently concerning unintended accel with cop crown vics, in fact a woman was killed a few months ago. the dept claimed many complaints with those cars, so they just switched to chargers.

    may be related – it happened to me in my 94 cougar, all i could do to stop it. later realized that to me, the pedals were a bit closer than i was used to, plus my 13EEs…well i was hitting both pedals at once.

  • avatar
    TomAnderson

    CBS=Consistently Biased Socialists

    And I’m pretty sure they never apologized to Audi or anyone else for using that remote-control setup.

    In other words, Katie Couric ain’t the only reason they’re in last…

  • avatar
    evohappy9

    kkop:A lot of Americans still drive with their left foot on the brake, as evidenced by cars accelerating and driving down the road with their brake lights on.

    And it’s not just old grannies either.

    -Exactly, left foot braking is crucial to every form of race driving and I practice it quite often. It should also be taught in civilian driving as braking reaction time is substantially reduced – thus adding a margin of safety. Now people that drive 20mph in a straight line with their foot on the brakes are another story.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Time: 1987. Situation: Sitting in 1985 Audi 5000 turbo in strip mall with owner, engine off, watching woman get in another Audi 5000 turbo across the 2 lane road at another store. What happened: Lady’s Audi takes off like a bat out of hell backwards across the street towards us, swerves slightly and jumps up onto the concrete parking lot blocks on our side, making it over them, just missing us and collecting the strip mall wall.

    Dazed bejeweled woman gets out of damaged Audi, and starts going on about unintended acceleration. Not her fault.

    Police arrive and actually listen to us, since we are in almost identical car, and have some interest in the matter, not unnaturally.

    Her brake lights never came on during the 3 or 4 second debacle, we tell police Test brake pedal, one not-so-smashed brake light bulb bravely lights up.

    So, all she did was mash the gas and not the brake.

    However, in her defence, have to say that the Audis used to take perhaps 2 seconds to engage reverse from Park, and on several occasions, forgetting that, in our Audi, my mind expecting to move and getting nothing during that 2 second period, foot automatically goes down on gas, car finally goes into gear and takes off like a rabbit. Your body bumps into steering wheel, and the first time it’s quite disorienting. Used to demonstrate the trait to anyone who wanted to see it after I bought that car from my friend — he got a 1988 Merc E class, and I used the 5 grand deal Audi gave for the depreciation and bought a new ’88 Quattro 90 manual cheap.

  • avatar

    The real issue here is that the cars lunged forward, then the brakes were pressed. This is a vital distinction: at full throttle, there is no vacuum to operate the power brake booster. (Actually there is enough in the booster for one or two applications).

    See http://www.ifitsgotanengine.com/2004/11/unintended-acceleration.html

  • avatar
    Fuzzydog

    “…at full throttle, there is no vacuum to operate the power brake booster…”

    ????

    You’ve never owned one have you? The brake assist for these cars is provided by the same hydraulic pump that provides the steering assist. there is no vacuum booster…

  • avatar


    ????

    You’ve never owned one have you? The brake assist for these cars is provided by the same hydraulic pump that provides the steering assist. there is no vacuum booster…

    Maybe the diesel powered 5000s, but the gas ones had vacuum operated boosters. Check for yourself.

    http://www.napaonline.com/masterpages/NOLMaster.aspx?PageId=470&LineCode=NBB&PartNumber=535903&Description=Power+Brake+Booster+w/o+Master+Cylinder

  • avatar

    It would be pretty interesting to see if there were ever any complaints about unintended acceleration in diesel powered Audis.

  • avatar
    cctoronto

    I remember this like it was yesterday.. to this day, I am very skeptical of “tv magazine” journalism like 60 minutes and I always think of the 5000 when I am forced to depress the brake pedal to click a solenoid (unnecessarily) to safely shift into drive. It was, in a word, ridiculous. It is a huge tribute to Audi management at the time that they survived in NA. Many did not… Peugot, Renault, Fiat… and on and on…

    Ah well, things happen for a reason… who knows why this happened. It sure was a cracked situation though…

  • avatar
    cctoronto

    quasimondo :
    May 3rd, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    If you hit the brakes and burned rubber, you didn’t hit the brakes.

    Zackly. End. Of. Story. Period.

  • avatar
    cctoronto

    Dorri732 :
    May 7th, 2007 at 4:06 am

    It would be pretty interesting to see if there were ever any complaints about unintended acceleration in diesel powered Audis.

    Also, an excellent point.

  • avatar
    Gymbeaux

    It is disheartening to see all the adulation on TV and in print, of Don Hewitt, mastermind of 60 Minutes, now that he has passed on, when thinking of all the negatives that resulted from the Audi 5000 debacle. He was a pioneer and did many good things for broadcasting. Too bad his ethics weren’t as good. I have not watched 60 Minutes since (or many other expose programs as well).


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