Tuesday, December 28, 2010

IIHS Top Safety Picks 2011

As per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor based on performance in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, plus evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. To earn Top Safety Pick for 2011 a vehicle must have good ratings in all four Institute tests. In addition, the winning vehicles must offer electronic stability control.
(However, don't compare ratings across vehicle size groups because size and weight influence occupant protection in serious crashes. Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford more protection than smaller, lighter ones. Top Safety Picks are the best vehicle choices for safety within size categories, but this doesn't mean a small car that's a Top Safety Pick affords more protection than a bigger car that doesn't earn the award.)Top Safety Picks 2011 are 2011 models, unless otherwise noted.LARGE CARS Buick LaCrosse Buick Regal BMW 5 series (except 4-wheel drive and V8) Cadillac CTS sedan Ford Taurus Hyundai Genesis Infiniti M37/M56 (except M56x 4-wheel drive) Lincoln MKS Mercedes E class coupe Mercedes E class sedan Toyota Avalon Volvo S80SMALL CARS Chevrolet Cruze Honda Civic 4-door models (except Si) with optional ESC Kia Forte sedan Kia Soul Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except 4-wheel drive) Nissan Cube Scion tC Scion xB Subaru Impreza (except WRX): sedan wagon Toyota Corolla Volkswagen Golf 4-door models Volkswagen GTI 4-door models MINICARS Ford Fiesta built after July 2010: sedan hatchbackMIDSIZE CARS Audi A3 Audi A4 sedan Chevrolet Malibu Chrysler 200 4-door models Dodge Avenger Ford Fusion Hyundai Sonata Kia Optima Lincoln MKZ Mercedes C class Subaru Legacy Subaru Outback Volkswagen Jetta sedan Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Volvo C30MINIVAN Toyota SiennaLARGE SUV Volkswagen TouaregMIDSIZE SUVs Audi Q5 Cadillac SRX Chevrolet Equinox Dodge Journey Ford Explorer Ford Flex GMC Terrain Hyundai Santa Fe Jeep Grand Cherokee Kia Sorento built after March 2010 Lexus RX Lincoln MKT Mercedes GLK Subaru Tribeca Toyota Highlander Toyota Venza Volvo XC60 Volvo XC90SMALL SUVs Honda Element Hyundai Tucson Jeep Patriot with optional side torso airbags Kia Sportage Subaru Forester Volkswagen Tiguan
For more detail on these vehicles, Click here for the December, 2010, IIHS Status Report.

GM Recalls Cadillac CTS for Airbag Defects

GM recalls 100,000 vehicles over crash-safety concerns.
The AP (12/27) reported General Motors is recalling nearly 100,000 vehicles to address issues related to crash safety. Postings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said GM was recalling nearly 96,000 2005 to 2007 models of the Cadillac CTS for airbag defects. GM said "repeated flexing of the sensing mat in the passenger seat can cause the mat to bend or fold so much that the sensor may not detect a passenger is sitting in the seat. Therefore, the sensor wouldn't activate the airbag in the event of a crash." The automaker also recalled about 1,300 2011 models of the Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, Cadillac Escalade, and Silverado 1500 for rear axle defects that can cause unexpected crashes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I wish you a warm and peaceful Holiday season. All the best in 2011 and for years to come!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Toyota will pay $32.4M to settle Federal safety probe

Toyota will pay $32.4M to settle Federal safety probe.
The AP (12/20, Thomas) reported the Department of Transportation said $32.4 million in civil penalties "will settle investigations into how Toyota dealt with recalls over accelerator pedals that could get trapped in floor mats, and steering relay rods that could break and lead to drivers losing control." The AP adds "the latest settlement, on top of a $16.4 million fine Toyota paid earlier in a related investigation, brings the total penalties levied on the company to $48.8 million." Toyota still "faces dozens of lawsuits from families of people killed or injured in crashes linked to unintended acceleration." The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles during the past decade, including 93 deaths."
Bloomberg News (12/21, McPherson, Kitamura) reports, "The settlements concern the timeliness of recalls conducted by the company in 2005 to fix steering relay rods and to assess pedals that may have become trapped by floormats from 2007 to early 2010, Toyota said in the statement. The payments follow an earlier $16.4 million US fine in May for failing to alert auto-safety regulators quickly enough about vehicle defects."
Reuters (12/20, Crawley) added, Toyota agreed to the fines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration but did not admit to violating US law.
The Wall Street Journal (12/21, Mitchell) reports to date, Toyota will have paid a sum total of $49 million to the government for violations related to the recall of millions of vehicles.
The USA Today (12/20) "Drive On" blog reported Toyota quality control chief Steve St. Angelo said "All 30,000 of our US team members, and the tens of thousands of Americans at dealers and suppliers across the country, have worked very hard over the past year to put these issues behind us and set a new standard of responsiveness to our customers."
CNN (12/21) reports, In November, "Toyota announced a 'limited service campaign' to fix cooling pumps on 378,000 Toyota Prius hybrid cars in North America. And a federal judge in California tentatively ruled that dozens of Toyota vehicle owners who filed a class-action lawsuit against the automaker over alleged mechanical defects can proceed with their case. The lawsuit is the first major US civil action against Toyota since the automaker recalled millions of vehicles stemming from 'sudden unexpected acceleration' and brake defects." The New York Times (12/21, Bunkley) reports Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement, "I am pleased that Toyota agreed to pay the maximum possible penalty and I expect Toyota to work cooperatively in the future to ensure consumers' safety."

Monday, December 20, 2010



Honda Recalls SUV Models for Faulty Brackets

Honda recalls SUV models for faulty brackets.
The AP (12/19) reported the recall of 35,000 Honda Passport SUV's "to inspect brackets on the rear suspension that could detach and lead to a crash." The Friday recall includes models built between 1998 and 2002 "and is limited to 21 states and the District of Columbia where road salt is used during the winter." A Honda spokesman reported "33 complaints from owners but not injuries."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chrysler recalling Minivans for Airbags that should not deploy, and VW recalling cars for fuel leaks

Chrysler, Volkswagen recalling hundreds of thousands of vehicles.
The AP (12/16) reported, "Chrysler is recalling more than 367,000 minivans to address potential accidental air bag deployments." Commenting on the issue that "affects 2008 model year Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans," Chrysler said, "water could leak near the heating and air conditioner drain. That could cause the air bag warning light to go off and deploy the air bag by accident." Meanwhile, "Volkswagen is recalling more than 228,000 vehicles to address potential fuel leaks." The "recall affects 2007-2009 model year Golf, Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen, Rabbit and 2006-2010 New Beetle small cars. VW says a small plastic tab in the windshield wiper fluid reservoir could rub against a fuel supply line under the hood. A fuel leak could develop and lead to fires."

Ford Windstar Axle Corrosion Recall

Ford Windstar Axle Corrosion Recall. Was it timely or just a business decision? How many are still on the road?

When the Office of Defects Investigation finally opened a Preliminary Evaluation into rear axle failure in Windstar minivans, Ford Motor Company argued that the problem was no big deal. The fractures only struck a handful of vans in the Salt-Belt states. The vans were older and had significant mileage. The components had performed well, considering. Besides, Ford said, an axle failure while the vehicle was in motion would not result in a catastrophic crash:
“The preponderance of real world data suggests the vehicle remains controllable even in the event of a complete rear axle fracture. The vast majority (95%) of reports received by Ford alleging a cracked or completely fractured rear axle do not indicate any concern for loss of vehicle control. Additionally, some customers note that there was indication of an unusual symptom, such as changes in vehicle ride or noise while driving, for days or weeks before the axle fractured,” Ford wrote to ODI in July.
“Ford recognizes fracture of the rear axle results in significant customer dissatisfaction as the repair cost can be high, and customers whose vehicles require a rear axle repair are understandably agitated at the prospect of paying hundreds of dollars in replacement expenses. However, years of real world data on vehicles that have been in service for up to 12 years clearly supports a conclusion that a fracture of the rear axle in the subject vehicles is not expected to result in a loss of vehicle control, and the likelihood of a related accident or injury is extremely low. In fact, over three-quarters (80%) of the reports received by Ford are simply requests for financial assistance with the repair.”
Then, on October 15, the unexpected happened. Sean Bowman, a 28-year-old Coast Guard veteran and father of two young daughters died, when the rear axle of his 2001 Windstar suddenly failed and his vehicle crashed into a building in Whitman, Massachusetts. Bowman’s passenger was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.
By this time, the complaints were in the hundreds and the vehicle had been recalled. But, Ford had been so unprepared to deal with the issue that unremedied Windstars were piling up on dealership lots awaiting new axles that had not been put in the pipeline. The recall remedy rate was 13 percent. The Bowmans received their recall notice three days after the crash and six weeks after the campaign had been announced.
The chronology of the identification and remedy of this defect suggests a failure that is much greater than the axles. Sean Bowman’s widow, Justine, was so upset by the sheer sluggishness of the entire enterprise, that the family took the extraordinary step of reaching out to the media raise the problem’s profile.
“We did not hear about the recall until after the accident,” Justine said. “We started doing research and when we saw that NHTSA issued a statement there were 575,000 recalled and only 75,000 had been brought in, we knew that people don’t understand how serious this really is. So, I took steps to get the word out there: it has killed someone.”
The Bowman family issued a press release to warn Windstar owners of the dangers, and the story was picked up by a number of news outlets. The agency didn’t open an investigation into Windstar axle failures until May 13, about a week after New York Times’ Wheels columnist Chris Jensen wrote a piece entitled: Ford Windstar Axles Bring Hundreds of Complaints, but No Inquiry. By May 5, the agency had more than 200 complaints of rear axle failures, but had not opened a Preliminary Evaluation. The article rebuked DOT Secretary Ray LaHood for assuring Congress during the Toyota hearings that NHTSA carefully reviews every consumer complaint. A comment from John Arout, a Staten Island Windstar owner who experienced an axle failure on his 2001 Windstar this year, provided the kicker:
“I don’t know what N.H.T.S.A. he is talking about.” Arout said.
Ford’s July 20 response to the agency took the tack that the problem wasn’t that bad. In specific cases in which a failure and a crash were alleged, Ford maintained it knew little about the incident and therefore couldn’t comment on it.
(Much of Ford’s public response has not been posted by the agency, so a view of what was turning up in its internal database was not possible by press time. Manufacturers generally receive 10 complaints to every one received by NHTSA.)
During the three-month probe, the Vehicle Testing and Research Center ran a field test simulating an axle failure at 35 mph. The Windstar lost one rear wheel entirely and experienced severe two-wheel tip-up. If the test van hadn’t been equipped with outriggers, it would have suffered a rollover.On July 27, the VTRC presented its findings to the Ford Safety Office – perhaps in response to Ford’s contention that all of the complaints were merely disgruntled owners seeking recompense for an expensive repair and to answers such as: “The vast majority (95%) of reports received by Ford alleging a cracked or completely fractured rear axle do not indicate any concern for loss of vehicle control.” Or, perhaps, because under the TREAD Act, automakers are only obligated to provide recall remedies free of charge for vehicles and components for up to 10 years old. Some models in the potential recall population, by statute, did not have to be remedied. This may diminish NHTSA’s authority, but there is ample precedent in which automakers have recalled their products outside of the recall statute.
The agency presentation counted 473 VOQs on rear axle failures; 6 alleged crashes; 1 rollover; 2 alleged injuries; and numerous loss of control incidents.
In August, with a total of 891 complaints, Ford threw in the towel and announced a recall. The campaign covered 462,750 minivans from the 1998-2003 model years.
Ford’s initial communications with its customers, however, belied the severe consequences of an axle failure while underway, as depicted in the test video. In an October Owner Notification letter, the automaker described the problem thus:
“On your vehicle, the rear axle could potentially fracture when operated in high corrosion areas (where salt is used on the roadways during winter months) for an extended period of time. If the rear axle should completely fracture, vehicle handling may be affected which could increase the risk of a crash.”
It also suggested that the problem was not widespread: “We believe the vast majority of vehicles will not have cracked axles and can be reinforced when parts are available.”
The company, however, did not have the repair kits available. And by the fall, Windstars with broken axles were piling up at dealership lots awaiting the replacement parts. With the new axles not due in until the spring, Ford was providing Windstar owners with rental vehicles at $38 a day. In October, as an interim measure, Ford announced that it would buy back some older models.
With replacement axles still months away from availability, a fairly low repair rate and the potential for catastrophe, the agency kicked up the pressure. In mid-November, it issued a Consumer Advisory urging Windstar owners to take their vehicles in to be inspected for signs of rear axle corrosion immediately. But the agency didn’t use the most persuasive evidence – its test video.
“Owners that have not yet had the inspection are advised to watch for potential warning signs of a cracked rear axle. Those include: top of the rear tires tilted inward (negative camber); excessive bouncing while driving; banging sound while driving over bumps; vehicle rear-end ‘fishtails.’” The agency said.
On November 30, Ford announced that it was expanding the recall to 37,000 more Windstars, in Utah and all 2003 models.
Justine Bowman feels an urgency that – until very recently – has been MIA at Ford. Had the crash happened a few hours later, her daughters, Lilly, 4, and Hope, 7, would have been in the van with their father.
“I don’t want everyone else to go through all the pain we are going through,” she said. “It’s devastating to them. They’re so little and their father’s gone. I could have lost my whole family. Someone else could lose their whole family. That’s scary and it doesn’t need to happen.”
In the meantime, ODI has another open PE on corroding Windstars. This investigation centers on corrosion of the front-sub-frame, which can fail while the vehicle is in motion. The agency had received 87 complaints from owners of 1999-2003 models, many of whom lived in Salt-Belt states and alleged that “the corrosion would occur on the right side, where the lower control arm is attached to the sub-frame, resulting in a loss-of-control or run-off-the-road crash.” Some drivers also complained that the failure occurred while the car was in motion; and many complained that the axle would break without warning.
Ford’s response to these sub-frame complaints was much like its response to the cracking axles. The automaker said, again, that the complaints were coming from Salt-Belt states and that Ford had “found a low rate of reports alleging corrosion-related cracking or fracture of the front subframe on the subject vehicles. The rate is particularly low when considering the age of the vehicles (some have been in service for up to 12 years) and the tens of billions of miles they have accumulated.”
At the agency’s request, Ford had analyzed the Windstar’s controllability at various speeds, using different vehicle maneuvers, such as turning. Its tests found that moderate breaking improved controllability. It also found that the vehicle remains controllable in static and low-speed situations where the sub-frame breaks.
Ford summed its findings:
“Vehicle testing simulating a separation of the rear attachment of the lower control arm from the front sub-frame has shown that with moderate brake application the vehicle can be steered and safely stopped. Vehicle testing simulating a fracture of the front subframe in the area of the rear body mount has shown that the vehicle remains completely controllable. Years of real world data, including only two accident allegations pertaining to the lower control arm and only one accident allegation pertaining to the engine cradle, in combination with the very low rate of reports demonstrate that corrosion-related fracture of the front subframe does not pose an unreasonable risk to safety.”
That investigation remains open.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Perseverance' Derek Redmond

Toyota Recalling Sienna Minivans to Replace a Brake Bracket

Toyota recalling 94,000 Sienna minivans over brake lamp issue.
AFP (12/14) reports, "Toyota on Monday recalled some 94,000 of its 2011 Sienna minivans in the United States to replace a brake bracket that could get stuck. Citing a light problem that could cause unwanted brake activation, Toyota announced it was just the latest in a series of recalls."
The AP (12/14, Thomas) reports the company explained that "a driver's foot could hit the switch bracket and deform it while applying the parking brake pedal." The AP notes, "The switch bracket is welded on to the left side of the brake pedal assembly. The brake lamp provides a signal to indicate that the brake pedal has been depressed and illuminates the brake lights."
The USA Today (12/13, Meier) "Drive On" blog said, "Depending on the amount of damage, the brake lights could stay on or the brakes could stay partially engaged, resulting in brake drag that would increase wear and may produce 'brake noise, brake vibration, and/or illumination of the brake warning light. If this condition is not noticed and the vehicle continues to be driven, braking effectiveness could be reduced,' says Toyota."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento recalls

Hyundai, Kia recall models to repair rear brakes.The Wall Street Journal (12/12, Welsh) reported Hyundai Motor Corporation and its Kia subsidiary recalled some of its 2011 models to address braking glitches. The rear brake calipers in Hyundai's Santa Fe model and Kia's Sorento risk leaking brake fluid, which could result in the loss of brake functionality. Nearly 1,783 Santa Fe models and 7,697 Sorentos are affected.

Drug Safety--Thelin (sitaxentan)

Pfizer recalls blood pressure drug due to liver damage.
The AP (12/10, Seaman) reported, "Pfizer Inc. said Friday it is pulling its blood pressure drug Thelin (sitaxsentan) off the market and stopping all clinical trials because the drug can cause fatal liver damage." Thelin "is sold in the European Union, Canada, and Australia as an oral treatment for severe pulmonary arterial hypertension, or high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery." Pfizer said "liver damage was a known side effect of Thelin and similar drugs...but the review uncovered a link to liver damage that was not tied to identifiable risk factors." In addition to the recall, the company "has withdrawn its filing for marketing in the United States."
According to the New York Times (12/10, Wilson) "Prescriptions" blog, Pfizer is halting "clinical trials it was conducting in a years-long quest to gain approval in the United States." The Food and Drug Administration "has rejected applications to market the drug in the United States at least three times in recent years, out of concern that the risks outweighed the drug's effectiveness -- concerns apparently validated by Pfizer's announcement."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Volvo Recalls 2009-2011 S40, S60 Sedans and XC60 for Seat Installation Flaws

Volvo recalls 7,420 vehicles to repair seat installation flaw.
The Wall Street Journal (12/6, Welsh) reported Volvo is recalling its S40 and S60 sedans and V50 station wagons from 2009 through 2011, as well as its XC60 crossovers from 2010 and 2011 to address passenger seat installation errors. According to Volvo, the improper installment of the seat's front rails may enable the seat to move farther ahead then intended, increasing the likelihood of injury during a crash. The recall involves 7,420 cars.