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11 Apr 2014

NHTSA chief says GM held 'critical information'

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Talking Cars

Federal officials say the agency charged with ensuring the safety of cars in America was missing key information when it decided against a deeper investigation of General Motors in 2007.

David Friedman (pictured), the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that the agency didn’t have knowledge of a link between airbag non-deployments and faulty ignition switches. He said GM could have helped make the connection.

“GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect,” Friedman said in remarks released ahead of his scheduled testimony before a Congressional subcommittee Tuesday. Both Friedman and General Motors CEO Mary Barra are scheduled to appear and answer questions before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee.

“GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect.” – David Friedman, NHTSA Administrator

His comments came one day after a memo released by the committee indicated that a senior NHTSA investigator wanted to probe a rash of fatalities, complaints and field reports related to the problems in November 2007. NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation opted not to open an investigation.

Problems with the faulty ignition switches remained largely unknown until February of this year, when General Motors announced a recall, which so far has affected 2.5 million vehicles. Documents have shown General Motors was aware of the ignition-switch defect as early as 2001 – four years before the affected cars were even sold.

At least 13 people have died as a result of crashes caused by the defect. Two Congressional committees, the Department of Justice and NHTSA are all investigating the delay in General Motors response to the problem.

“I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” GM CEO Mary Barra said, in an advance copy of her prepared remarks. “When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers.”

At the request of the Department of Transportation Secretary, an inspector general is also investigating NHTSA’s own effectiveness at spotting the deadly trend and bringing enforcement.

On Monday, former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook criticized the agency for failing to act.

“NHTSA has fallen into a bureaucratic quagmire that it uses to avoid opening investigations and determining safety defects while people are dying unnecessarily on the highway,” she said. “…It is past time for NHTSA to put the public first in its safety defect decisions.”

Friedman, who took over as NHTSA’s chief administrator in January, said there was not sufficient evidence at the time. He said the 51 employees of the agency’s Office of Defects Investigation have made significant efforts that result in the annual recall of roughly nine million defective vehicles.

“We believe our defects investigation program and recalls process has functioned extremely well over the years in identifying defects that create unreasonable risks and ensuring that recalls occur whenever appropriate,” he said. “Even so, we continually seek ways to improve.”

NHTSA chief says GM held ‘critical information’ originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 01 Apr 2014 14:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Toyota issues multiple recalls for 6.4 million vehicles worldwide [UPDATE]

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2009 Toyota Corolla

UPDATE: The text below has been amended to include new details provided by Toyota.

It looks like 2014 may go down as the year of recalls. We were already at a record pace, and now it seems Toyota is recalling 6.39 million vehicles worldwide, including about 30 of its models for a variety of problems. None of the faults have caused any injuries or fatalities, but there have been two reports of fires caused by a defective engine starter motor.

Toyota’s numbers show 1.772 million vehicles being recalled in the US, but that includes some overlap because the Yaris is being repaired for multiple faults. According to The Detroit News, there are 2.36 million affected models in all of north North America, 1.09 million in Japan and 810,000 in Europe, plus smaller numbers in other regions. Toyota tells us that there are 6.76-million faults to repair in total, with those problems spread out over the aforementioned 6.39-million units.

Among the vehicles recalled in the US are 1.3 million units of the 2009-2010 Corolla, Matrix and Tacoma, the 2008-2010 Highlander, the 2006-2008 RAV4 and 2006-2010 Yaris. The problem is that the driver’s airbag module is attached via a spiral electrical cable. The connections on the cable can be damaged when the steering wheel is turned, which could deactivate the airbag and cause the airbag warning light to come on. Toyota is replacing the cable with an improved part, but it’s still making preparations to begin the repair. The company is sending affected owners notifications in the mail. According to The Detroit News, an unspecified number of Pontiac Vibe vehicles are also included in this recall because it shares the part with the Matrix.

A second US recall affects about 472,500 2006-2010 Yaris hatchbacks, 2007-2010 Yaris sedans and 2008-2010 Scion xD models. The seat rails on the driver’s seat and for hatchback models on the front passenger seat as well have faulty springs to lock the seat to the mechanism, especially if the seats are adjusted often. If a spring brakes, the seat may not lock the seat into position, which could increase injury in a crash.

Worldwide, the spiral connector recall affects 3.5-million vehicles and the seat lock issue 2.32-million units.

Toyota will replace the seat track assembly on affected cars, but the parts are not in place yet. It will contact owners when repairs begin, but for now, Toyota spokesperson John Hanson tells Autoblog, “We are stepping it up and fixing it as quickly as possible.”

Outside of the US, models are being recalled to repair a bracket holding the steering column, fix the windshield wiper motor and correct a starter motor that could cause fires.

Below you’ll find press releases from Toyota in reference to all of the recalls of US cars.

Continue reading Toyota issues multiple recalls for 6.4 million vehicles worldwide [UPDATE]

Toyota issues multiple recalls for 6.4 million vehicles worldwide [UPDATE] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 09 Apr 2014 09:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Total auto recalls already on record pace in 2014

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US-AUTO-SAFETY-RECALL-GM-CONGRESS

If you’ve noticed that there have been more recalls than usual this year, you may be on to something. According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the US market is on pace to break a record for recalls. In 2013, 22 million cars were recalled. We’re only a third of the way through 2014, though, and we’ve already halved that figure, with 11 million units recalled. That’s wild.

Considering the past few months, it shouldn’t be a surprise that General Motors is leading the charge, with six million of the 11 million units recalled coming from one of the General’s four brands. Between truck recalls, CUV recalls and the ignition switch recall, 2014 hasn’t been a great year for GM.

Other recall leaders include Nissan (one million Sentra and Altima sedans), Honda (900,000 Odyssey minivans), Toyota (over one million units in a few recalls), Volkswagen (150,000 Passat sedans), Chrysler (644,000 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs) and most recently, Ford (434,000 units, the bulk of which were early Ford Escape CUVs). So while it’s been a bad year for GM so far, its competitors aren’t doing too well, either.

It’s not the end of the world, though. The Los Angeles Times spoke to Kelley Blue Book’s Karl Brauer, who pointed out that this latest string of six- and seven-figure recalls is “the new normal,” due to manufacturers’ fear of the federal government. According to Brauer, it was the $1.2-billion fine handed down following Toyota’s unintended acceleration fiasco that has made manufacturers so open to recalls.

“Toyota changed the thinking on recalls,” Brauer told The Times. “The cost of a recall is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of what happens if you don’t do it.”

Total auto recalls already on record pace in 2014 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Center for Auto Safety calling for Chevy Impala airbag probe

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2009 Chevrolet Impala

The Center for Auto Safety and its leader, Clarence Ditlow, have taken aim at General Motors again, this timing writing to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the 2003 to 2010 Chevrolet Impala. If you’ve been following our coverage of GM’s ignition switch recall, you’ll recognize Ditlow and the CAS as vocal critics of the automaker and strong proponents of setting up a victims’ fund.

CAS’ letter regards the Impala’s airbag systems. In particular, it focuses on a piece of computer code that dictates when the airbags deploy, in the event of an accident. The problem, as CAS sees it, is that there may be a glitch in the airbag’s algorithm that prevents the system from deploying if the seat’s occupant bounces before the accident, lessening the amount of weight on the airbag sensor. Without the minimum amount of weight on the seat, the computer doesn’t think there’s anyone occupying it, and consequently, won’t deploy an airbag.

According to CAS, there have been 143 people killed in front-impact crashes in 2000 to 2010 Impalas (CAS is, weirdly, including 2000 to 2002 Impala deaths, despite the fact that not all of those vehicles may feature the advanced airbag and flawed algorithim). Of those 143 deaths, only 98 were wearing seat belts. Eliminating 2000 to 2002 fatalities drops those figures to 132 and 89, respectively.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling, is CAS’ study on the matter, which relies on the shaky data of the Fatality Analysis Report System – the same system that claimed there were 303 deaths due to the ignition switch recall. Basically, while there may be a problem with the algorithms, it certainly seems like CAS is asking a rather loaded question here.

We’ve included CAS executive director Ditlow’s letter to NHTSA below. Scroll down, have a look, and let us know what you think.

Continue reading Center for Auto Safety calling for Chevy Impala airbag probe

Center for Auto Safety calling for Chevy Impala airbag probe originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 08 Apr 2014 13:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Ford recalls 434k vehicles for several unrelated issues

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2013 Ford Escape

It seems that the hard winter in much of the country has been as rough on some Fords as it has on many people. The Blue Oval is recalling roughly 434,000 vehicles in two separate recalls, and one of them partially caused by the salt used to melt the snow on roads.

The first recall covers 385,750 2001-2004 Escape models in the Midwest, Northeast and Canada because a subframe could rust and eventually fail. This is partially due to the road salt used in those areas, and about 349,000 of the affected vehicles are in the US. To remedy the problem, dealers are installing a reinforcement cross brace on the frame to strengthen them. There has been one crash caused by the failure but no injuries. According to The Detroit News, this is not the first rust-related recall for Ford. It estimates the company has repaired over two million vehicles since 2010 for problems on vehicles related to the iron oxide, including the rear wheel wells of the Freestar minivan.

The second recall covers 48,950 2013-2014 Ford Fusion, Escape, C-MAX and Lincoln MKZ models because welds in their seatbacks don’t meet National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards. The fault affects the front seats, and the sub-standard welds joining the seatback to the recliner could increase the chance on injury. There have been no reported injuries or accidents caused by the problem, but there are 42,972 affected vehicles in the US and 4,744 in Canada.

We’ve contacted Ford for more details about when it plans to begin repairing the affected vehicles, and we’ll update this story when we hear back.

Ford recalls 434k vehicles for several unrelated issues originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Evenflo recalls 1.37 million car seats for issue with harness buckle

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Evenflo Momentum 65One month ago, it was Graco car seats that were in our headlines, following a 4.2-million-unit recall over reports of parents having to cut their children out of the seats after the buckles seized. Now, Graco’s competitor, Evenflo, is in the hot seat (no pun intended).

Evenflo is recalling 1.37 million of its own car seats over a very similar issue – parents are unable to unlatch a buckle in the harness. This is an obvious problem, as it could put the child in serious jeopardy if its parent couldn’t unlatch it in an emergency.

The recall covers both convertible and harnessed child seats. We have the entire list of affected models, which were built between 2011 and 2014, available in the official bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Evenflo will begin notifying registered owners of the affected car seats this month, and it will ship new buckles with installation instructions. Take a look below for the official release from NHTSA.

Continue reading Evenflo recalls 1.37 million car seats for issue with harness buckle

Evenflo recalls 1.37 million car seats for issue with harness buckle originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Mazda spiders return, 42k Mazda6 sedans recalled for webby fuel tanks

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2010 Mazda6 S sedan

It seems that Yellow Sac spiders really, really love Mazda. Three years after Mazda recalled 52,000 Mazda6 sedans over spider webs obstructing the evaporative canister vent lines of 2009 and 2010 Mazda6 models, another recall has been issued for 42,000 more of the models built between 2010 and 2012 and equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

According to the automaker, there have been nine confirmed sightings of spiders in vent lines since the original recall. It seems that covers were applied at the factory to keep the arachnids from entering, but it hasn’t quite exterminated the problem. A reflash of the ECU is required that “[changes] the logic behind how the car purges the charcoal canister during normal operation,” says Jeremy Barnes, Director, Public Relations & Brand Experience at Mazda North American Operations.

So far, Mazda has not recorded any fires, accidents or injuries due to this tangled mess of webs. Recall notices will be mailed out to owners later this month. Scroll down below for the statement from Mazda, along with the official recall notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Continue reading Mazda spiders return, 42k Mazda6 sedans recalled for webby fuel tanks

Mazda spiders return, 42k Mazda6 sedans recalled for webby fuel tanks originally appeared on Autoblog on Sat, 05 Apr 2014 13:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

Mazda recalling 88k vehicles for ECU glitch [UPDATE]

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2014 Mazda3

UPDATE: Mazda USA spokesperson Beverly Braga confirmed that this is a voluntary recall, and that the issue entails, “the control program that is designed to protect the capacitor [is] reacting hyper sensitively when the alternator belt gets wet and slippage occurs.” There are no physlical issues with the components of the i-ELOOP, like the capacitor or DC/DC converter.

Need a break from news about the General Motors ignition switch recall? This Mazda recall should serve as a nice change of pace. It involves 88,000 cars across the globe, and focuses on the brand’s three most recent (and important) models – the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5.

The issue rests with Mazda’s new i-ELOOP regenerative braking system. Apparently there’s a problem with the ECU program that monitors whether a capacitor in the regen system is working. Acceleration is affected, and in severe cases, the engine could stall. There have been no mention of accidents or injuries due to the issue, and the glitch itself can be cured by an ECU reflash.

As i-ELOOP is a fairly new system for Mazda, particularly in the US, the total number of affected models is rather low, with just 6,500 US cars affected. Europe is hit hardest, with 38,000 models while Mazda’s home market of Japan adds 27,600 cars and crossovers. Affected models were built between October 2012 and January 2014.

Mazda recalling 88k vehicles for ECU glitch [UPDATE] originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 04 Apr 2014 10:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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