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Subaru Sudden Acceleration Update - Outback Slams Through A Garage Door

A new report says a newer Subaru Outback accelerated without warning and crashed through a garage door. Here is the latest update on Subaru's sudden acceleration lawsuit.

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A woman driving a 2019 Subaru Outback says her midsize SUV accelerated suddenly and slammed into her garage door. The new report from CBS AZfamily News3 says Theresa Rawls was sitting in her 2019 Outback waiting for the garage door to open with her foot on the brake. Rawls says the vehicle lurched forward on its own, crashing into their garage. This is not the first report of a Subaru vehicle accelerating without warning.

"I was sitting in my car idling with my foot firmly on the brake. I always push the garage door opener, it's a big steel building, and I wait for the garage door to open fully. And when the garage door was just a third of the way up before I knew what was happening, it shot forward," said Rawls.

2019 Subaru Outback sudden acceleration lawsuit
photo credit: CBS AZfamily News3

Subaru has two class-action lawsuits pending involving unintended vehicle acceleration. Subaru Report has reported on Subaru of America's class-action cases over the "sudden unintended acceleration" of some 2012-2018 Subaru Forester compact SUV, 2015-2019 Subaru Outback midsize SUV, and the 2015-2019 Subaru Legacy sedan.

The first case was filed in a New Jersey federal court against Subaru in May 2020. According to a report from Automotive News (by subscription), the second lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Southern California on September 4, 2020.

2019 Subaru Outback sudden acceleration lawsuit

Subaru Report also published a story of a 2017 Subaru Forester that, without warning, accelerated and would not stop after leaving a car wash. The woman says she stepped on her 2017 Subaru Forester brakes several times, trying to stop the small SUV as it went through the back yards and fences. The vehicle hit a shed and a garage before coming to a stop.

What is causing the alleged unintended acceleration?

One theory is that the problem stems from electronic throttle control, or a problem with "the throttle position sensor, throttle body assembly, powertrain control module and circuit board allegedly malfunction, and the brake override system doesn't override unintended acceleration."

Several complaints have been reported with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about speed control issues with some Outback and Forester models. There have also been numerous speed control complaints on Car Complaints and Car Problem Zoo websites about the Forester and Outback models.

Dominick Infante, Director, Corporate Communications, Subaru of America, told CBS AZfamily News3, "We are aware of the incident involving Ms. Rawls and her Subaru at her home, and our local retailer has been working directly with her. Ms. Rawls' vehicle was thoroughly and methodically inspected by trained Subaru technicians who did not find any defects in the vehicle that could have caused the incident she describes. We are not aware of a single confirmed case of unintended acceleration in a Subaru vehicle, ever."

What should customers do if they have experienced sudden and unintended acceleration?

If you own a 2012-2018 Subaru Forester, 2015-2019 Subaru Outback, or 2015-2019 Subaru Legacy and have experienced sudden and unintended acceleration, you can file a complaint with the NHTSA. Go to their website or call 1-888-327-4236. You can also submit your contact information with an attorney from Morgan and Morgan, and they will give you a free case evaluation.

You Might Also Like: 11 Easy Tips To Improve Your New Subaru Or Any Car’s Fuel Mileage

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Don Levin (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 7:21AM

Who posed “one theory…”? “ brake override system doesn't override unintended acceleration”
Hard to believe that Eyesight crash protection system stays asleep, allowing throttl brake override system doesn't override unintended acceleration e requests for gas to occur, crashing vehicle. Can the vehicle recorder’s data be analyzed? Corp Com guy says local dealer working on it. I’d think higher up regional techs would get involved. Dealers can’t be expected to resolve design issues.

Jamie Murdock (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 10:28AM

In reply to by Don Levin (not verified)

Exactly as Don suggests... Eyesight and the secret data logging the car records should contain a lot of abnormal events and validate the driver's story. That data tells a story, and if Subaru is the only one with access to it, trust will be hard to achieve.
Software is fallible and independent failsafe measures must be state of the art and highly verified.
I need to know a lot more about how my 2019 Outback works now! Is my brake pedal only requesting that a processor apply my brakes? Are my brakes not able to overpower my engine?

Tim Balmer (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 6:53PM

In reply to by Jamie Murdock (not verified)

The electronic module tells the car if the accelerator isn't reading up to 15% and adjust where acceleration starts each time you start the Subaru my app with the Bluetooth ODB tells me this it's called handicap or something along those lines it says the accelerator is broken in between certain points as it gets used and then resets where acceleration starts a little bit higher on the pad where electric contact is made.

Phil (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 2:57PM

Same old, same old. No pun intended. UIA ALWAYS occurs more in cars that older people drive. Older people drive Foresters and Outbacks. And Priuses. True, these car have higher reports of UIA. Sometimes 5, 6 and 7 times more! But that is out if 100's of thousands of cars. Ray LaHood, past US secretary of transportation also got confused by this mathematical statistic. Even though mathematically much higher multiple number of cases for a single model, it is mathamatically insignificant. Ray LaHood could not grasp the mathamatical calculations to prove "statistical significance" understood mathematicians. A certain model of car had 15 cases of UIA over 100, 000 cars and another has only 2. Therefore, LaHood concluded over 7x more likely to have UIA if driving that car. But because over 100, 000 cars surveyed, the difference between 2 and 15 is completely meaningless as a %. What does makes by far the biggest and a real significant difference is age. Specifically over 65 yrs of age. People over 65 are 80% more likely to report UIA. Guess what cars they most likely drive?

Jay H (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 5:00PM

I have experienced sudden acceleration with my 2019 Subaru Outback 3.6R. Always thought my foot was too big for the brake pedal and gas pedal, which are relatively close to each other. Felt like I was pressing the brake and gas pedals at the same time. Based on other people’s experiences, maybe I’m wrong.

Dianna (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 11:37PM

In reply to by Jay H (not verified)

Our Toyota Camry Hybrid did the same thing more than once but we thought it must be an anomaly, until we went online and began digging further. Our Toyota mechanic never told us there was an issue/controversy with UI so we kept up with the routine maintenance…and some of it is very costly with hybrids…only to have to park it after the last incident because we certainly can’t sell it to anyone, and have their blood on our conscience. Its ridiculous! Being behind the wheel during these occurrences was so frightening and now, thousands of dollars are wasted because no one will own up to it.

Di (not verified)    September 21, 2021 - 8:56AM

In reply to by Jay H (not verified)

You weren’t wrong. The brake sensor is overridden when this happens and it literally doesn't even register, even with the black box when you do depress the brakes. It’s been proven that the NHTSA and NASA tests were insufficient (just dig a little) . It’s a frightening situation but if car manufacturers admitted fault, they’d be out so much money.

Matt (not verified)    September 16, 2021 - 11:54PM

I'm calling b.s. for many reasons.

1) The engine does not have the power to propel the car forward if you are applying even a moderate amount of braking, even with the larger 3.6R. You HAVE to let off the brake to get any forward movement. I've purposely done this with a current gen Subaru and the bigger 3.6L engine.

2) If the car had eyesight and is enabled with the crash mitigation. It will NOT let you run into anything, even if your foot is on the gas with the pedal to the floor. I have been in situations where I had to purposely turn this off just to move the car forward. This is a secondary system that is working on addition to your inputs, and it's a system that's independently controlling the ABS system, regardless of what the throttle (any part of it) is doing. The vehicle would need to have eyesight and would need the forward collision mitigation enabled.

3) In the words of everyone's favorite tv doctor, House, everyone lies. A person just crashed their car stupidly in a way where if they told the truth they'd be out $10k, $15k, $20k or whatever, they will question their morality REALLY hard, and most, very much most, will lie through their teeth to not instantly lose $20k on the spot. You would be kind of insane not to. It's not even an ethics thing. It's a risk/reward thing. The reward is a free car. The risk about equal to telling the truth.

4) There's a lot of terrible drivers. Be it a pack of experience, a lack of understanding of the mechanics, poor attention, and odd reaction behaviors. I have a friend who's natural reaction to his car sliding on some loose gravel or snow or ice was too crank the wheel full lock to one side and slam the gas, and then he'd freeze in place holding these inputs...for 20 seconds. He replaced 8 bumpers on one car in like 2 years driving straight into ditches and snow banks. For him, this was nearly involuntary to the sensation of the car sliding and how his brain processed and coped. Even a slight sensation triggered basically a 20 second automatic episode to which he wasn't really aware. I took him rallycrossing for a season just to unbreak his mind. He's a much better driver now, but people do this kind of stuff. I have another friend who can't talk on the phone and drive, not even hands free. He'll drive through stoplights and drive info parked cars doing so. That's how his brain functions. Cars are complex machines, and modern ones are a lot fancier with a lot of visual candy to distract you. There are a lot of bad drivers.

5) Lawsuits like this come up all the time and with a wide variety of brands. What has been historically common was actual defects are extremely rare. The majority of cases, including testing, attempting to repeat with the exact car, and collecting data logs of all sensors which includes throttle position, throttle plate control, air intake, brake application, motion sensors, and all kinds of other metrics, well, they basically find most people are bold faced liers. The car data didn't match what people said happened. The car and components don't repeat the problem and pass testing, news and people move on, and it all goes away until a new person lies to a news station.

Are there legitimate cases? Yeah...a few very isolated events.

Common sense (not verified)    September 22, 2021 - 4:32PM

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

I agree, if one doesn't have the ability to place the gear in neutral, then they need to reevaluate their qualifications of operating a machine that is potentially deadly to others while they are in control of it

Barbara Spinney (not verified)    May 15, 2023 - 9:58AM

In reply to by Matt (not verified)

Completely untrue. Was stopped at red light for approximately 15 seconds with foot firmly on break I was stationary in vehicle. Suddenly engines revs, dash lights illuminate and vehicle flys forward. Fully depressing break did not stop this motion. I had to shift into park to avoid hitting car in front . Definitely not driver error

Jason (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 1:12PM

If these vehicles had a clutch pedal, people wouldn't be able to claim this (whether it's true or not). Just press the clutch in and shut the vehicle off. Problem solved.

Di (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 11:28PM

In reply to by Jason (not verified)

Yeah…tell that to someone going 65 on a highway who feels the gas pedal suddenly depress under foot. The natural reaction is to depress the brakes. Now…the brakes begin to have a fight with the gas pedal and every time the brakes are let up thr acceleration happens. Mind you….this is sudden, unexpected and completely out of the driver’s control, the driver who is supposed to have the presence of mind to turn the engine off, all the while avoiding other drivers, etc. and looking for a place to pull over. Hmmmm. Not what I buy into when buying a car.

NMK (not verified)    September 18, 2021 - 5:02PM

In reply to by Di (not verified)

That 100% cannot happen on any car ever. Do you have any understanding of how electronic throttle controls work? Your foot pushes the gas pedal. From there it sends a signal through wires to your throttle body telling it to open or close accordingly. There is absolutely nothing attached to the has pedal that can make it pull down to the floor or depress in any way without your input. In every single case of this mysterious acceleration I have ever investigated it has ended up being a floor mat wedged under the gas pedal or someone just plain screed up and wont admit it. These things are very easy to see with modern computer vehicles. In most cases there are at least 3 and up to 5 sensors that can be viewed after an accident to see what was happening. When 3 or more separate sensors say you pushed the accelerator down, you or something on the floor did.

NMK (not verified)    September 21, 2021 - 8:55AM

In reply to by Dude (not verified)

I have taken part in several of these investigations 1st hand with several different manufacturers. There has never been a case that I have seen where the car was at fault. I have been told there was ONE case where an engine computer caught fire while driving which did cause a brief (8 second) long period of uncontrolled acceleration until the entire vehicle shut down. Good news is with modern computers its very easy to spot the liars. If they publish it we will know soon.

Jason (not verified)    September 19, 2021 - 10:42AM

In reply to by Di (not verified)

I had to do it before on an ATV, so it's possible if you know what you're doing. I was taking a used sport ATV (Suzuki LT250R) for a test ride down some back streets of a city and the twist throttle stuck wide open as I was coming up to a stop sign. I immediately grabbed the clutch, shut it off, slammed on the brakes and got stopped right before I flew through the intersection. It was scary and completely unexpected, but I managed to pull it off before anything bad happened.

Russell Casey (not verified)    September 17, 2021 - 7:04PM

Keep in mind if this was a 2015-2018 Outback, It might not have eyesight. It was not standard until about 2019. This particular car might NOT have pre-collision braking.

Gbarchives (not verified)    September 21, 2021 - 6:31PM

As an older guy whose had a few whiskey throttle moments mostly caused by a floor mat getting stuck or on my high school 1969 Ford the foot pedal spring failing, seems to me this might be what happens when too many systems are piggy backed on each other in new cars. If I need all those driver aids to drive I guess I’ll stay home.

Rom/Honey (not verified)    October 6, 2021 - 11:26PM

I have been in the 2013 forester with my mother in law (who is only in her early 50’s for those saying it’s all drivers 65 and older) when this has happened to her on a few occasions. Fortunately she has very quick reflexes still compliments of being a professional ski racer for many years. She also has allowed herself ample space between herself and the car in front of her in traffic but has come within inches of rear ending someone when this happened to her. Mind you she does have quick reflexes and has avoided any serious collision to date as a result of this defect but it is a real issue. We live in a rural mountain community, what concerns me is that it has happened when her foot wasn’t on the brake and was letting off the gas to decelerate for an upcoming tight corner. Had I not read this article I would have gone on accusing her of losing her marbles. Thanks for the info, this might have just saved my marriage. Lol no but seriously it might have!

Dianna (not verified)    October 7, 2021 - 4:35PM

In reply to by Rom/Honey (not verified)

Yeah…only people who have experienced this should be commenting on it. It seems “unbelievable” and rather than believe a variety of people (different ages, abilities, etc.) with the same weird story, people become dismissive. Of course they don’t change the truth but it’s much better to share with those who understand than worry about defending our weird experiences to those who refuse to believe them.

Richard Rodewald (not verified)    February 12, 2022 - 6:17AM

A very similar event of unintended acceleration, as described for the case of a 2019 Outback slamming into a garage door, happened to us and our 2017 Impreza. This was the third instance of unintended acceleration with this car--two different drivers, three different situations. We reported this to Subaru and the NHTSA. Subaru's investigation found nothing wrong with the car. Two points are worth adding to the comments made by others. First, the data recording system of these cars is only activated after a malfunction (e.g., upon airbag deployment), not before, as might be necessary to determine cause rather than effect. Second, the automatic forward braking system only recognizes certain objects, like a car, and not others. like a garage door. It has a pattern recognition element in its design. The limitations of the system are described in extensive, legalistic detail in the owner's manual for the car. By the way, Subaru was unwilling to cover the considerable expenses involved in repairing our car and garage. I will be interested in the outcomes of the class-action lawsuits now in progress.

Beverly Pubaince (not verified)    April 15, 2022 - 9:31PM

This happened to me on 4-8-22. I have a 2019 Outback. I had two options plow into the car in front of me or jump the curb. I chose the second option and funny thing after I ruined my tire and rim the car started to drive like it should. I pulled into a parking space scared to death, shaking like a leaf. Long story short there is a major problem and until people are killed and probably more than one, Subaru will not acknowledge the problem shame on you Subaru. I love my car but the love affair is coming to an end after this situation. I wound up replacing all four tires and needed an alignment. This avoiding a problem and making up excuses is totally wrong. I’m just thankful I was on a side street and not the highway.

Zion (not verified)    April 21, 2023 - 11:09PM

In reply to by Beverly Pubaince (not verified)

after leaving a car wash From Mister Car Wash on 4423 NE Central Ave I put a shifter on Drive and the car accelerated at high speed without my command. I had no control of the car to stop, hit the brake or put on it park several times, The car was moving forward by itself. I was screaming and yelling through my window to warn people to stay away of my way. I missed several cars and jumped the curb. Still I wasn’t able to control the car to stop. I finally I was driving off the road on the the grass. After several attempts and maneuvering, I made a turn right on 49th Ne Central Ave and hit a pole so the car stopped right away and I had to call a police and the police told me not to drive the car. I called tow truck to take it to Subaru dealership but they telling me the car is good nothing wrong with it,but I was scared to take it back to drive. Now I'm looking for different car to buy

Sandra Blake (not verified)    November 5, 2022 - 4:45PM

Like others in this thread, I had a terrifying sudden acceleration with my 2016 Subaru Outback recently just as I started up and took it out of Park. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to hit the ignition to stop the car. After calming down and then not totally believing what had just happened, I started the car up again, took it out of Park and sure enough, the exact same thing happened. I was extremely fortunate not to have hit a person, other vehicle or obstacle. I had the car towed to the local Subaru dealer/maintenance who suggested it was an issue of carbon build up behind the throttle, then charged me $347.50 for the following: "Checked for stored DTCS, found nothing pertaining to throttle issues.Inspected and cleaned throttle body...found debris behind throttle plate. Cleaned debris and entire throttle body. Tested..operates as designed." To the service department it was as though nothing at all happened, I should just drive off and not think about this, and I am angry that they were so dismissive about something that could have been lethal. They also told me that I should have had a "fuel system service". This car, serviced according to Subaru's maintenance schedule, has been serviced regularly since we purchased it. They have never done this fuel system service, despite the 68K mileage when last serviced by them (Subaru's 60K service). My question is whether or not it's safe to drive this vehicle, and where do I go from here to alert others of this extremely hazardous problem?

Grace (not verified)    November 29, 2022 - 11:05PM

I have had the same instances with my 2019 Outback, 4 recent, and both Subaru and the dealer are making each other accountable.
NHTSB or whatever their acronym is got Subaru involved and both are claiming the car is safe. Total BS as are many of the replies on here. I am shifting into neutral now as I decide how to manage this. Nearly hitting a brick building and almost destroying my dining room were bad enough- what if I had hit a pedestrian?
I commiserate with the others- it is rare but it is totally REAL!