Kane claims Toyota backed an online consumer poll that attempted to discredit him. The poll, a copy of which was provided by Kane, asks a series of questions about Kane, Gilbert and allegedly inaccurate reporting by ABC News.
Embedded in one question, for example, was the statement, "The American people deserve the truth about the safety of their cars, not biased studies by trial lawyer consultants who stand to make millions suing Toyota."
"We do opinion surveys all the time," Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said. "We were researching the potential for getting messages out, in particular for our advertising."
Meanwhile, the SMART inspections have yielded mixed results.
On March 15, the company drew dozens of reporters to an event at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego where it was able to cast doubt on claims by James Sikes that his 2008 Prius had suddenly accelerated a week earlier.
The company asserted that the accelerator pedal was working properly and the brake pedal had been repeatedly depressed, implying Sikes did it intentionally to mimic a sudden acceleration event.
Released several days later, the California Highway Patrol report about the incident said nothing about suspected fraud and noted simply that the brakes were burned out. It said Sikes was examined afterward by emergency medical personnel and found to have a "very high" blood pressure and heart rate.
SMART did another inspection last month in Harrison, N.Y., after a woman reported that the Prius she was driving suddenly accelerated into a wall. An inspection of the vehicle electronics by Toyota found that the driver never had her foot on the brake in the moments before impact.
But the SMART team may have helped Toyota's adversaries on March 12, when it inspected a 2007 Camry after an alleged sudden acceleration event.
Linda Tang, an Orange County resident who is suing Toyota over alleged defects in the Camry electronics, said her vehicle suddenly accelerated after she had taken it to a dealership for repairs under recall.
Toyota initially did not inspect the vehicle. It was only after Tang's attorney enlisted congressional investigators to contact the Department of Transportation that the inspection was scheduled.
At a sophisticated Toyota facility in Orange County, a large team of company technicians spent nearly seven hours going over the vehicle. Two federal safety investigators flew in from Washington to oversee the inspection. They were joined by an automotive electronics expert hired by Tang's attorney.
Near the near the end of the day, the Toyota technicians acknowledged a major error.
A shim that was supposed to have been installed in the gas pedal assembly under the recall to prevent sticking was missing, according to federal officials and allegations in Tang's suit.
"It was shocking," said William Rosenbluth, the automotive electronics expert who works for Tang's attorney, Michael Lewis Kelly. "It wasn't there and the paperwork says it was put in."
Toyota officials declined to discuss the inspection.