Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

NHTSA Announces Follow-Up Airbag Recall of 2.12M Vehicles; Chrysler’s Ignition Switch Defect Still at Large

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on January 31 the recall of more than 2.12 million Acura, Dodge, Jeep, Honda, Pontiac, and Toyota vehicles for a defect that may cause airbags to deploy inadvertently. The recalls will provide vehicle owners with a new remedy after the manufacturers’ original attempts to fix the defects proved ineffective in some vehicles.

“Keeping the traveling public safe is our number one priority, and we expect the manufacturers to get this remedy right to prevent injury to drivers and their families,” Foxx said.

The new recalls cover 2.12 million Acura MDX, Dodge Viper, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty, Honda Odyssey, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix and Toyota Avalon models made in the early 2000s. The vehicles were subject to earlier recalls to address a problem with an electronic component manufactured by TRW that caused some airbags to deploy inadvertently – that is, in the absence of a crash.

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered through the monitoring of incoming data from consumers and automakers that some vehicles remedied under the previous recalls may have experienced inadvertent deployments. NHTSA urged all three automakers to issue new recalls to implement a more effective remedy. NHTSA has identified about 40 vehicles in which airbags deployed unexpectedly after receiving the original remedy.

Action by consumers is especially important because about 1 million Toyota and Honda vehicles involved in these new recalls are also subject to a recall related to defective Takata airbags that may deploy with enough explosive force to cause injury or even death to vehicle occupants.

Because of the dangers involved in an inadvertent deployment, and because some of the vehicles involved may also have defective Takata airbags, NHTSA urges consumers who were covered by the original recalls to take their vehicles to their local dealer for the original remedy. That remedy significantly reduces the chance of an airbag deployment that presents a safety risk.

“This is unfortunately a complicated issue for consumers, who may have to return to their dealer more than once,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “But this is an urgent safety issue, and all consumers with vehicles covered by the previous recalls should have that remedy installed. Even though it’s a temporary solution until the new remedy is available, they and their families will be safer if they take the time to learn if their vehicle is covered and follow their manufacturers’ instructions. A hassle is much better than a family tragedy.”

NHTSA will take a series of additional steps to ensure safety, including:

  • Seeking additional information from the TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., which made the electronic part believed to be involved in the inadvertent deployments, about the potential defect, its causes, and whether other makes or models might be affected.
  • Seeking information from the automakers about how quickly they can make the new, more effective remedy available.

“NHTSA is committed to using every tool available to make our roads safer, and that includes using our authority and influence to make sure companies are doing what they should do to protect safety,” Rosekind said.

But Takata airbags aren’t the only recall plaguing the auto industry.

Chrysler’s safety defect with the ignition switch also has consumers worried.

Rachel Jefferson overlooked a recall notice in July 2014, and experienced firsthand the dangers of a “safety device” gone rogue.

After she exited off of I-70 in Kansas City, KS, her 2009 Dodge Journey abruptly shut off. Luckily she was able to maneuver the vehicle to the side of the exit ramp, where she had to restart the vehicle to put it in park, reported Melissa Yeager of kshb.com.

Dodge Grand Caravans and Chrysler Town and County were also affected by this recall.

The notice reports that the key fob can become loose and swing out of position causing the car to stall. It also causes the passenger safety devices, like air bags, to become inoperable, reported Yeager.

Thirteen deaths and 54 accidents have been linked to a similar defect with GM vehicles. However, Fiat-Chrysler Automotive US, LLC (FCA US, LLC) has reported no injuries or deaths, and only two accidents.

The NHTSA was made aware of the issue in 2010. The manufacturer issued a recall for select models in 2011 and expanded the recall in 2014, reported Yeagar.

The letter Jefferson received last summer stated that her vehicle was safe to drive, and that another letter would be issued if that changed. She called her dealership thinking she had missed the notification, but it turns out that it hadn’t even been delivered yet.

It has been six months since Jefferson’s Dodge Journey shut off mid-driving, and she is still waiting for her local Chrysler dealership to receive the correct parts to make repairs.

Like dozens of other angry drivers, Jefferson filed a complaint with NHTSA about the delay, reported Yeager. Yeager also found complaint after complaint in the NHTSA’s database from drivers who had experienced stalling and couldn’t get a timely repair.

Rosemary Shahan, founder of the consumer watchdog group Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety or CARS, believes consumers waiting for parts have a right to be concerned.

Federal law requires that manufacturers have safety recall repairs done promptly. However, Shahan said in reality that doesn’t always happen, reported Yeager.

She attributes this to the stockpiling of repair parts by manufacturers before sending out recall notices.

NHTSA and FCA US, LLC both echoed that statement, saying it takes time for manufacturers to stockpile parts and have mechanics ready to make repairs. A spokesman for FCA US, LLC told Yeager that this was a rare instance for the automobile maker where engineers needed additional time to study and develop the right solution to fix the defect.

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