Thursday, January 12, 2017

Honda airbag recall expanded.

The CBS Evening News (1/11, story 9, 0:30, Pelley, 11.17M) reported Honda is recalling an additional 772,000 vehicles due to defective Takata air bags, bringing the recall to “as many as 69 million air bags in American cars and trucks.”

        Car and Driver (1/11, Atiyeh, 5.64M) reports that Honda’s addition of “772,000 more cars” to the airbag recalls comes “as the troubled Japanese supplier announced new repair schedules for several million inflators currently under recall.” The article notes that “Honda has the most US vehicles of any automaker affected by the Takata recalls,” with the total “now standing at 11.4 million cars and motorcycles.” 

Monday, January 9, 2017

FCA recalls 100,000 vehicles worldwide to fix Takata airbags.

The AP (1/6) reports Fiat Chrysler issued a recall notice for “more than 100,000 older trucks and SUVs worldwide to replace potentially dangerous Takata air bag inflators,” which have been at the heart of the largest auto recall in world history.
        USA Today (1/6, 5.28M) reports online that the recall mostly affects “passenger but some driver air bags in certain 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs, some 2010 Ram 3500 chassis cabs, and certain 2005-2009 Ram 2500 pickups.”
        Reuters (1/6) also reports.

        Takata says 1.3 million more faulty airbag inflators in US vehicles. AutoBeat Daily (1/6, Subscription Publication) reports Takata announced “another 1.3 million of its front airbag inflators in the U.S. could explode,” but the company informed NHTSA “that the new batch of devices can do the same after only moderate heat and humidity cycles.” The vehicles are mostly from the 2009 model year, with “20 states and the District of Columbia” falling under the recall. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

NHTSA’s proposed safety regulations will impact autonomous vehicle market.

Forbes (1/4, Banker, 15.17M) reports that NHTSA’s proposed safety regulations, which would use vehicle-to-vehicle radio communications to “automatically send vehicle sensor other vehicles to alert drivers to potential crash situations,” could hasten the rate at which autonomous vehicles “become viable...because the chief impediment to the viability of autonomous vehicles are fears that they are not safe enough.” However, the “proposed rule makings” of federal agencies “progress incrementally,” so the “full benefits” of V2V technology “won’t be present until all vehicles are subject to the same regulations.” 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Safety regulators investigate seat belt failure in Hyundai vehicles.

The Detroit News (1/3, 473K) reports that “US safety regulators” are investigating complaints that “the front passenger seat belts can fail in about 313,000 Hyundai midsize cars” from the 2013 model year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received “two complaints that the seat belts detached,” and “one injury was reported due to the problem.”

        Forbes (1/3, 15.17M) reports that federal regulators are “investigating whether to recall about 313,000 2013 Hyundai Sonatas” based on “complaints by two owners.” Forbes specifies that the investigation is a “preliminary evaluation,” which will be “upgraded to an engineering analysis” only if investigators find “additional reason for concern.” 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mazda to recall 70K RX-8 sports cars for fuel pump defect, fire risk.

Automotive News (11/15, 188K) says Mazada will be issuing a recall for “about 70,000 RX-8 sports cars from the 2004-08 model years...because of an issue with fuel pump sealing rings that may leak and catch fire.” On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted on its website, “The affected vehicles have fuel pump sealing rings that may deteriorate due to exposure to heat from the engine or exhaust pipe...which in the presence of an ignition source can increase the risk of a fire.”
        Additional coverage is provided by Reuters (11/15), Car Connection (11/15, 86K), and Law360 (11/15, 23K).

Fiat Chrysler asks some owners to return to dealers after software upgrade fails to fix gearshifts.

The AP (11/16, Krisher) reports Fiat Chrysler has asked about 29,000 owners, including 13,000 in the US, to return their 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees and the 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 to the dealers after a software patch “designed to fix confusing gear shifters on 1.1 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles didn’t work” on their cars. The AP adds that “the problem, reported in a document released this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was discovered in a Fiat Chrysler audit.” 

Friday, November 11, 2016


Clarence M. Ditlow III, the head of the Center for Auto Safety, in his Washington office in 2009.CreditMichael Temchine for The New York Times
Clarence M. Ditlow III, widely regarded as America’s foremost advocate for automotive safety, who championed seatbelts, airbags, electronics to avert crashes and campaigns to force the recall of millions of dangerously flawed motor vehicles, died Thursday night in Washington. He was 72.
His death, at George Washington University Hospital, was caused by cancer, said Daniel Becker, a friend and associate.
As head of the Center for Auto Safety, based in Washington, for 40 years, Mr. Ditlow exposed hundreds of automotive defects. He was instrumental in forcing manufacturers to recall the Ford Pintos with infamous exploding gas tanks, Toyotas that suddenly accelerated out of control and General Motors pickup trucks with sidesaddle gas tanks that blew up in collisions, killing more than 1,000 people.
With a budget of less than half the cost of one G.M. Super Bowl commercial, Mr. Ditlow took on auto industry giants in lawsuits that tightened standards for ignition systems, airbags and fuel efficiency; lobbied government agencies to ban driving while texting or using cellphones; and achieved “lemon laws” in all 50 states that made it easier for buyers to return defective vehicles.
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Mr. Ditlow, far right, appeared with Toyota executives at a 2010 Senate hearing concerning the recall of Toyota vehicles with acceleration problems. CreditMichael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency
An engineer and lawyer, Mr. Ditlow collaborated with Mr. Nader on “The Lemon Book” (1980), on “The Lemon Book: Auto Rights” (1990) and on many safety articles. He also wrote about the tendency of some vehicles to roll over, to jump from Park into Reverse gear and to power off with a loss of all controls and airbags while being driven.
“When regulators sleep and auto companies place profits over safety, safety defects pile up,” Mr. Ditlow and Mr. Nader wrote in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2014. “A record number of vehicles — more than 50 million — have been recalled this year, a result of congressional hearings and Justice Department prosecutions, which exposed a mass of deadly defects that the auto industry had concealed.”
Mr. Ditlow never achieved the fame of Mr. Nader, whose landmark book, “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile” (1965), accused car manufacturers of hiding defects at the cost of untold lives. The book also prompted Congress to create what became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to enforce safety standards and supervise recalls.
But Mr. Ditlow carried to fruition many of the initiatives that Mr. Nader began after he and Consumers Union jointly founded the Center for Auto Safety in 1970. Mr. Ditlow, who became the center’s executive director in 1976, was instrumental, for example, in long campaigns to require that all motor vehicles have seatbelts and airbags.
Over four decades, Mr. Ditlow badgered the traffic safety administration for more stringent standards, saying its leaders were often political appointees reluctant to move against the powerful auto industry.
He also became the industry’s fiercest critic, issuing scathing reports on defective vehicles and related problems ranging from child car-seat flaws to dangerously designed engine mounts. He testified at scores of congressional hearings on safety and warranty issues, consumer protection, air pollution and fuel economy.
And he successfully pushed for myriad recalls by the traffic safety administration: There were 60 million vehicle recalls in the last year, including 11 million for defective ignition switches and millions more for defective Takata airbags. In 2014, 1.4 million G.M. cars were recalled for engine and airbag shut-offs; in 2013, two million Jeeps for exploding gas tanks; in 2010, seven million Toyotas for sudden acceleration. In the 1970s, 6.7 million Chevrolets were recalled for defective engine mounts, and 1.5 million Ford Pintos — half of all those produced — for fuel-tank fires in rear-end collisions.
In addition to millions of other recalls in the ’80s and ’90s, Mr. Ditlow and his organization achieved lemon laws in all 50 states to protect consumers. Over the last 25 years, he also served on the boards of Consumers Union, the environmental group Friends of the Earth and the Canadian highway and the auto safety organization Automobile Protection Association.
At a news conference in 2014, Mr. Ditlow displayed a G.M. ignition switch similar to those linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes.CreditJ. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
He often sought data under the Freedom of Information laws and sometimes found shocking unintended revelations. In 1978, he discovered a secret internal memo that raised questions about the safety of Firestone 500 steel-belted radial tires sold in the ’70s. A dozen deaths resulted from blowouts caused by tires that overheated. He pressed the issue, and 15 million tires were recalled.
“This year, 60 million vehicles are under recall,” Mr. Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, a unit of the Center for Auto Safety, said in an interview in October. “The vast majority of the defects were discovered by Clarence and pursued by him to protect the driving public. Hundreds of thousands of people are alive today because of his work.”
Clarence Mintzer Ditlow III was born on Jan. 26, 1944, one of three children of Clarence Mintzer Ditlow Jr. and the former Myrtice Lamb, and grew up in Camp Hill, Pa. His father was a service manager at a Chevrolet dealership in Harrisburg, Pa.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania in 1965. After working for five years as a patent examiner in the United States Patent Office, he received a juris doctorate from Georgetown University in 1970 and a master’s degree in law at Harvard in 1971.
Drawn by Mr. Nader’s crusading for consumers, Mr. Ditlow, in the late ’60s, joined what the press called “Nader’s Raiders,” young volunteers who investigated the Federal Trade Commission and in their reports found it to be “passive” and “ineffective.” A formal study by the American Bar Association then led to an overhaul that emphasized more aggressive consumer protections and antitrust enforcement.
Later, Mr. Ditlow joined another Nader spinoff, the Public Interest Research Group, which lobbied for consumer protections, environmental regulations and other progressive goals. He was a lawyer for the group until 1976, when, at Mr. Nader’s behest, he took over the Center for Auto Safety.
Mr. Ditlow, who lived in Washington, is survived by his wife, Marilyn J. Herman, and a sister.
He continued the fight into his last months. This year, he urged that auto executives who had concealed dangerous defects in their products be criminally prosecuted. And in a USA Today blog in August, he argued that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was endangering lives by not issuing standards on driverless vehicles.
“In its zeal to advance driverless vehicles, N.H.T.S.A. has forgotten its mission is to ensure safety, not promote gee-whiz vehicle technology to increase sales,” he wrote. “It is an inherent conflict of interest for any agency to both promote and regulate technology. N.H.T.S.A.’s deference to industry initiatives in lieu of safety standards represents an abdication of regulatory responsibilities that is unprecedented in the history of the agency.”