By on February 12, 2010

Click to enrage … we mean, enlarge

According to the MSM and many on-line pundits, the NHTSA has been drowning in customer complaints about Toyotas for years. Supposedly, the warnings were thrown in the wind.

Edmunds went through the pain of sifting through NHTSA’s complaint database from 2001 through Feb. 3, 2010 . After the counting was done, Edmunds came to a startling conclusion: The deluge of complaints is a myth, to put it charitably. “Fabrication” would be a better word. Amongst 20 brands, “Toyota ranks 17th among automakers in the overall number of complaints per vehicle sold,” says Edmunds. NHTSA’s own data shows: Only drivers of Mercedes Benz, Porsches and Smarts have less to kvetch than Toyota owners.

According to the hard data, Land Rover owners complain the most about their vehicles. Much to the horror of Germany’s Autohaus, “inordinate amounts of complaints come from VW drivers.” Volkswagen ranks 4th in NHTSA’s hall of shame. Two days ago, Christian Wulff, Premier of Lower Saxony, 20 percent owner of Volkswagen, warned about Wolfsburg complacency: “The troubles of the competition should be a warning to undertake everything so that the same doesn’t happen to oneself.”

The most complaints in the database, 25.3 percent of the total, concern GM cars. Relativized by GM’s large market share, this lands GM on place 11. Ford, where quality is job one, gets more complaints per car than the cross-town rival. Chrysler, the other ward of the state, ranks 7th. Volvo, supposedly the pinnacle of safety, created even more complaints per car: Place 6.

Edmunds points out that these are raw “complaints filed by individuals.” The complaints are “not checked for accuracy by NHTSA.”

In the blood & guts dept., Edmunds tried to get hard numbers about deaths and injuries, but decided that it’s an exercise in futility. “It quickly became clear that the data is unreliable,” says the Edmunds press release. “For example, one complaint indicated that 99 people had died in one vehicle as a result of an accident. It should also be noted roughly 10 percent of total complaints appear to be duplicates.” Which may explain some of the confusion, and some of the wild numbers circulating with no dependable source.

“No one should overlook the issues raised by the Toyota recalls, but it is important to keep things in perspective,” said Edmunds’ CEO Jeremy Anwyl. “A broader view shows that consumer complaints reflect an industry issue, not just a Toyota issue. As Toyota’s experience in recent months clearly demonstrates, it is no longer an option for car companies to dismiss consumer complaints, even if the event is difficult to replicate or diagnose.” Looking at the list, car companies have their hands full.

Edmunds and NHTSA’s own data prove that there is a witch hunt and mass hysteria that are not born out by hard facts. Whether the witch hunt and mass hysteria have been created, or are just exploited by other interests, is left as an exercise to the student. Conspiracy theories? Henry Kissinger pointed out that even the paranoid have enemies. By the dubious virtue of being the world’s largest auto maker, Toyota has no shortage of enemies. And a lot of reason for paranoia.

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51 Comments on “The Truth About NHTSA Complaints...”


  • avatar
    Russycle

    I am shocked, shocked, to see that the MSM is (yet again) mailing it in instead of doing their homework.

  • avatar

    It is time to now sue Consumer Reports for misinformation!

  • avatar
    Dave Skinner

    Thank you for the information. I always appreciate data presented on a percentage basis. Reporting raw numbers allows the media to shock rather than instruct.

    However, this data looks at all NHSTA complaints rather than focusing on unintended acceleration complaints. The additional data adds “noise”, and does not focus on the issue at hand.

    Some of the stories on excessive Toyota safety complaints quote a Consumer Reports study, which stated that Toyota had 40% of all NHSTA unintended acceleration claims, a much larger percentage than their 16% market share.

    While I can’t verify the statistical accuracy of the Consumer Reports study, the disparity between these percentages leads me to believe Toyota has a bigger problem than the other manufacturers. To quote Consumer Reports, “Toyota racked up more unintended-acceleration complaints than Chrysler, GM, Honda, and Nissan combined”.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I think this shows us all just how unserious cable news shows are when it comes to producing substantial journalism.

    • 0 avatar
      DweezilSFV

      Bertel referred to the MSM [mainstream media or Establishment media],not the cable news networks.

      Regardless, I don’t see Dateline and 60 Minutes or the Big 3 boradcast networks as being any paragon of journalistic purity or conscientiousness.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Another problem with the data is that it is purely from owner reports. Toyota’s quality reputation was, at least recently, due more to self-perpetuating propaganda as it was to actual vehicle quality.

    Someone who bought a Chrysler, after hearing how Chryslers are unreliable, is much more likely to report a complaint when their fears are confirmed that someone who bought a Toyota, who had always heard that they were the best cars built. While the Chrysler owner would be looking for problems and ways to confirm their fears, the Toyota owner would be far more likely to pass over issues and assume they were either their own fault or a freak occurrence that didn’t require reporting.

    Now that more of Toyota’s shoddy quality control is being brought to light, I anticipate that in the coming year Toyota’s share of complaints is going to rise considerably.

    • 0 avatar

      You mean, “now that the GM-owning state’s lapdog media spun up its propaganda machine, in the coming year Toyota’s share of complaints is going to rise considerably”.

    • 0 avatar
      trollthattellsthetruth

      Please stop perpetuating the belief that “Toyota’s Quality Control is Shoddy.” Their cars are not unbreakable, and they are far from perfect, but I think the point of this article was that NO CAR MAKER IS PERFECT. The biggest problem with this recall is that the actual cause of the recall may be unknown, even to Toyota. Now, this is all speculation on my part, but Toyota has enough money to fix an issue if the solution was obvious. The fact that they have blamed the floormats, then the pedal assemblies can be interpreted as them “sweeping the problems under the floor,” but could it also be that they actually don’t know the cause of the problem? You could argue that this makes them incompetent but if you think about it, they are trying to fix a problem that has a vague cause, a chance for human error, and relatively low rates of occurrence. I must admit that I am being a Toyota apologist, but I don’t feel that these incidents should somehow make people believe that other car makers are now so vastly superior to Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      It’s more likely the other way around. Toyota and Honda owners expect more from their cars. Chrysler owners don’t know any better. Serial GM owners are just going to be grateful if the car doesn’t have the DexCool or manifold issues of years gone by.

  • avatar
    RoadRage

    I think most of us here is missing the big picture. Because problems are not reported to the NHTSA, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just like consumers ignoring recalls, they also overlook the seriousness of some issues with their vehicles. The complaints on that chart that lead people to believe one automaker has less issues then another is very unscientific. Most consumers don’t even know how or where to lodge a complaint. That being said, we can’t let Toyota off the hook because no one complains. Toyota internal info from warranty claims and open RO’s show a different picture. It’s more cost effective to delay and deny then to initiate a massive recall for shoddy parts or bad engineering.

    • 0 avatar

      Roadrage: I have spent a good deal of my professional life analyzing these data (for the #4 on the chart.) Let me assure you: Counting actual complaints is a much better tool than sometimes dubious customer satisfaction surveys. Trust me: People who write to the president of the company, or, even worse, lodge a complaint with the NHTSA have a serious problem – with their car. Usually, this is a step of last resort, born from frustration, because nobody rectified the problem. If someone goes to the trouble of finding out that there is an NTSHA, and where to send a complaint, that guy is mad. As far as unscientific goes: It is equally hard for a Range Rover driver to find out where to send an NHTSA complaint as for a Smart driver. Unless someone can conclusively prove that Range Rover drivers are creatures of much higher intellect than Smart owners, then these statistics are much more scientific and reality-based than any survey.

      Nobody claims that these complaints cover all problems. Short of processing warranty claims and repair bills of the whole industry, you will never find out. The NHTSA list is as good as they come.

      Another piece of experience, gained through decades of exposure to these matters: Questioning the scientific validity of a study is a classic knee-jerk reaction to data that do not fit with one’s mindset.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Hi Bertel,

      Also being one who has done much swimming in NHTSA’s recall and complaint databases, I think Edmunds’ list tells somethings (plural), just not the something (singular) that is needed in the case of SUA; such an ambiguous list is like an ambigous command, neither can be properly actioned and, while at best are interesting and give rise to all kinds of philosophical discussions, but are more or less useless (for the issue at hand.)

      Edmund’s list is essentially raw data, and the inability to filter and reduce the data to something meaningful points to a problem on the NHTSA-side with collection, compilation, and interpretation. This is the other side of the problem that I am thinking about 8not the problem with the product, but the problem in recognizing and acting on it quickly.)

      There are two filters that should be applied:
      1. filter for safety-only related complaints (short-term);
      2. comparison against traffic-accident reports involving injury and fatalities (longer-term);

      Are you aware of any federal clearinghouse for traffic accident reports from law enforcement agencies? (If the cops can do CODIS, they can do the same for injury/fatal accident reports.) Combining this with NHTSA’s civilian complaint database would be a powerful tool for filtering noise.

      The police side could be the play-by-play, with the civilian-side adding context and colour-commentary.

      Re. the 99 fatalities … each complaint entry should be accompanied with a name and a social security number, and there should be a risk of penalty for filing false information. Don’t provide your name or ssn, or the two don’t match-up, then the data is not accepted, or rejected into a separate file.

      p.s. And as said before, by me and others, Toyota’s problem here stems not from the technical issue, but from organizational response … With its palpable lack of speed and candor Toyota has backed itself into a “what did they know and when did they know it” contraversy.

  • avatar

    This might be a little off topic. With the ignition switch problem and the … oh some exhaust piece I think … problem, Smart is the least complained about car on the American road? Is it that Smarts are primarily second cars or is Penske really that good at customer service? or like, what?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Other possibilities:

      1. Smart owner are driving four-wheeled lifestyle accessories, not hard-assed transportation (in their minds). What constitutes a problem would differ between those two groups.

      2. Smart owners, having bought in to whatever it is that makes a Smart desirable, are being deliberately blind to whatever problems exist. After all, you wouldn’t want to have to admit you made a mistake?

      3. The small (nay, minuscule) amount of Smart cars sold skews the amount of complaints

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    For an analysis of sudden/unintended acceleration complaints to NHTSA specifically see
    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/12/sudden-unintended-acceleration-sua-analysis-2008-toyota-lexus-ford-gm.html
    But please don’t accuse Consumer Reports of being part of any conspiracy.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting data. Just by looking at it, anybody with eyes can tell you that Toyota, Ford, Chrysler (and possibly GM) need to be investigated NOW.

      Also, please note the footnote:

      “Looking at all complaints on 2008 models through November, we find that Toyota had a significant increase after the media attention following the California tragedy and the company’s safety advisory mailings to owners. In November, the total count for Toyota and Lexus rises to 80 incidents, representing 48 percent of the complaints from all brands.”

      We had seen rashes of “unintended acceleration” with the Audi 5000 after the 60 Minutes piece. Anybody who had an accident in an Audi suddenly was a victim of UA. The NHTSA never found a defect. Filter out the November spike, and Ford would stick out like a sore thumb. Where is the Ford witch-hunt? Where’s the outrage?

      Even with the spike: 52 complaints about Toyota and Lexus trigger a public lynching, 36 complaints about Ford trigger — silence?

  • avatar
    walksatnight

    “Whether the witch hunt and mass hysteria have been created” Perhaps it is simply the price of being top dog.

    Toyota passed GM as the top seller a few years ago and things like this are part of the price for that. It is natural to hammer on the Big Man, People complain bitterly about Microsoft – believe me Apple and Linux have issues as well. You often hear about how horrible McDonalds is (they even made a movie about it) – is Burger King any better?

    GM was the whipping boy for decades. Toyota will have to get used to it because it isn’t going to stop.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    American Suzuki at #2??

    Thanks to Daewoo.

    Forenza, Reno, Verona. GMDAT all.

  • avatar
    IGB

    This list simply doesn’t correlate with quality. Mercedes Benz (and Smart for that matter) are utter crap when it comes to reliability and durability. Mitsubishi and Mazda are ranked with Chrysler. No correlation.

    Land Rover and Daewoo at the top makes sense but after that I’m not sure you can put these lists next to each other.

    Also very hard to interpret the percentages. Is the diffeence between #1 and #10 0.001 complaints per vehicle or .1 complaints per vehicle? You have no idea.

    • 0 avatar
      210delray

      I think you’re ignoring the likelihood that the vast majority of complaints in the NHTSA database are for perceived safety-related issues, not overall quality or durability. I would think (hope?) that the number of complaints about faulty audio systems and the like are minimal.

      BTW, how do we know yet whether the Smart will be durable? It’s only been sold in the US for 2 years. (Not that I would ever consider buying one.)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Wait, are we finally, actually looking at the NHTSA data? Finally? Didn’t anyone notice that the signal-to-noise ratio in there is abominable until now?

    I’m not saying it’s not useful, or that the 2:1 SUA ratio for Toyota isn’t an issue, but you really have to take the NHTSA data with a grain of salt because a) it’s easy to anyone to submit complaints and b) lots of it is pretty silly or ignorant.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    The analysis at Consumer Reports strongly statistically suggests Ford has a problem as well. Ford has only 1/3rd less complaints than Toyota, for the same sales volume.

    Coincidentally, they mention one particular complaint that surfaced, the F150 pedal width and placement causing consumers to press the brake and accelerator at the same time. This exact same thing happened to me, a half dozen times during my F150 lease. I nearly hit cars in parking lots a couple of times. Gave me a good scare! The first couple times I blamed my fat feet and general awkwardness, but after a few more times I did wonder why it happened with the F150 and no other vehicle I drove. It happened more often when I wore boots. Gotta figure there are a lot of boots being worn inside a work truck. I never complained to the NHTSA. Perhaps I should have.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    The case against the politics of the NHTSA just thickened to a glue.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    Regarding Land Rover’s #1 spot. A reply from a Land Rover owner and co-worker of mine may indicate why they got that spot:

    “I look for complaints, just to get my car washed – maybe that’s why they’re number 1.”

    It’s true. He will complain about ANYTHING because the customer service at the Land Rover dealer is so great. He actually LIKES going in, talking about Land Rovers, getting some free coffee, and having his truck returned glistening.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “For example, one complaint indicated that 99 people had died in one vehicle as a result of an accident.”

    The clown community has never fully recovered from the carnage of that day.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    There is another thing that Edmunds compilation doesn’t show, trends over time.

    The raw data is from 2001 to now, so it is an average over 9 years.

    If a car maker had really good design/quality/reliability/durability/safety in 2001 and therefore had very few NHTSA reports and really bad d/q/r/d/s in 2010 and therefore lots of NHTSA reports (ignoring the fact that there should be some lag in reports) – their ‘score’ over 9 years might just be ‘average’.

    But would you really want to own a car from a manufacturer that is trending downwards?

    The reverse could also be true of course – bad cars getting better, but without trending data, there is no way to know this, just absolute value over a period of time.

  • avatar
    the_gamper

    Perhaps I did not read into it far enough, but I would just like to point out that the problems per vehicle sold could be misleading. Are these figures for all cars sold during those years or for all cars on the road? If the complaints are for all vehicles on the road then current or recent market share information means nothing. The domestic automakers would account for far more of the vehicles on the road than their current market share suggests making the number of complaints per vehicle much lower in actual terms.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Manufacturers’ warranty claim databases would be the best source of information. But it would be a battle royal to open up those trade secrets.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I almost can’t believe what I’m reading this morning. The analysis provided by this number crunching is incomplete, and borderline irresponsible. The issue is never the total number of complaints, it is about an inordinate number of complaints about a particular defect. If there are 1000 complaints, and 995 of them are unique and unrelated to one another, chances are there isn’t a design defect related to 995 of the claims. Also, the severity of the defect is important. My car had a recall for the headlamps which could develop a haze on the reflective surface. That’s a lot more livable and a lot less catastrophic than if the car had a defect that caused it to veer out of control. The pinto, which was one of the safest small cars in the 70s, had a serious defect that was infrequent but catastrophic and newsworthy. People don’t like the thought of being engulfed in flames. Plus, Ford handled it poorly. If it mattered in the 70s at a time when safety wasn’t a priority to most people, it matters to Toyota today. For Edmunds to say that this issue is a “fabrication” is sloppy and negligent writing. Any way you look at it, Toyota has a real problem related to very specific safety issues. And they’ve botched it big-time.

  • avatar
    obbop

    If it bleeds it leads.

    Adage-like but appropriate for the circumstances.

    • 0 avatar
      prince valiant

      Replying to Robert.Walters question about a federal accident/fatality database. NHTSA maintains a database site called FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System). The database is searchable with customizable filters. Hope this helps.

      Here is the link: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Ack! I’d heard of FARS, even went there some years ago, but was not useful to the kinds of studies I was doing … and in the meantime I’d forgotten about it.

      Regardless, thanks for the info, you’re a real prince! ;o)

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    Land Rovers had a chronic problem with their 2002-2006 models where the front diff would blow up every 30,000 miles and the car would be left without power. This was treated as a safety issue by drivers because of the possibility of the vehicle losing locomotion while merging onto a highway. Eventually Land Rover recalled all of the vehicles. Same thing happened with VW coil packs.

    The internet has changed the way defects are found out by allowing owners to communicate directly with groups of fellow owners. If an engine dies on the highway and the car gets towed in and fixed it’s only over until the owner Googles the problem and finds a few forum threads where his exact problem seems to be widespread. The owner now feels (rightly or not) the automaker had the data and didn’t think customers like him were worth protecting. A class action suit got VW to extend warranty on window regulators, 100% of which were defective on Jettas and Golfs built 99.5-2003. I doubt anything would have been done had the owners not been able to easily ascertain the universality of the defect.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Landies also entertained themselves by tossing away their vibration dampers and FEAD belts like a bride tosses away her bouquet and garter…

      When this happens the p/s pump stops rotating an you get “immediate unintended option-delete manual steering”.

      It was decided that this could be a problem in some circumstances so there was a recall.

  • avatar
    KingShango

    For all the bashing of MSM this post just adds to the garbage info floating around. This “report” shows absolutely nothing. It’s an average over nearly a decade that doesn’t distinguish between the seriousness of complaints or their severity. How many of those Range Rover owners had SUA or brake failure? How many of those Fords caught fire? I appreciate the efforts to uncover the facts but without detailed info this might as well just be a chart of random numbers.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    First, I don’t think I have heard anyone say that the NHTSA has had too many complaints from Toyota and going on about how every other automaker has significantly lower complaints. The only metric I have seen was the one that said Toyota has 41% of complaints with UA.

    I have heard that there are too many complaints to investigate them all, but not just from any one manufacture. Before jump to defend any particular car company from the dreaded MSM who is on a witch hunt, why don’t we actually look what good has come from the MSM reports.

    Toyota admits a problem with floor mats.

    Toyota admits a problem with pedal assembly.

    Without the MSM reports about these people dying, does anyone think that Toyota would have made these recalls? To me, a witch hunt would mean that Toyota didn’t have problems, but they actually do.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I agree with Mr. Schmitt, this list is better than a survey. That said, different people are bound to have a different method to complaining about a defect. For instance, I’ve never filed a complaint with the NHTSA, and yet I never hesitate to report a problem directly to a new car manufacturer. I’ve done it for a Element, Magnum RT, Fitsport, Bronco (twice), Ram 2500, airbag suspension manufacturer, the list is actually longer than this. Usually it’s a design flaw that irritates me (Fit’s ebrake, Elements AWD crapfest, Magnum’s no rev match downshifts, Bronco’s easily salt corroded and hard to open tailgate, rear window that shatters in cold weather), but not always (that airbag suspension). I would only go the NHTSA route if I felt I didn’t have a channel to the companies’ engineers or if I felt that the company was actively denying that my complaint had validity. Other people are not me though, and I know this because I’ve seen people go full-crazy at a McDonald’s drive-through b/c they were shorted a few fries.

    What we should do is agitate for the full disclosure of warranty claims (not awards, and correlated with succesful or not fixes). Seriously, if there’s ever a political climate where auto-lobbyists can be countered with public opinion, it’s this one. Screw their IP, screw their “trade secrets”, I buy cars, I don’t build them.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      But my understanding is that this was safety related problems. People may have very different reactions when they feel that their lives have been endangered.

      I will complain to my dealership if my ebrake annoys me, but I’m telling everyone I can, including the NHTSA, if my /steering column locks/throttle sticks/airbag blows up for no reason/etc. and endangers my life.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The data there is raw data. It could be that an interior piece was loose and wasn’t fixed. The data is not verified by anyone to my knowledge.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Hmm… maybe those Chrysler transmission do last longer than 90 days! (see my posts under Chrysler Fights Customer Loyalty With “Minivan Pledge”)

  • avatar
    gslippy

    This is just as I suspected. But the US Congress, which is part owner of GM and Chrysler, will hold hearings for Toyota (the competition) so they can claim they care about the American consumer. Gimme a break.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Data like the cruise control switch that catches fire or may not show up on here much. I mean, if it doesn’t happen to you, do you report it? For the people who did report it, did they report it to Ford first? Did the NHTSA discover the problem or did Ford? I am thinking most recalls don’t actually come from this database b/c of it being unreliable.

      But how is quality supposed to be portrayed in a safety reporting tool like this? One way to check the data would be to see if it changed much from year to year. One ten year reporting cycle isn’t as useful as ten one year cycles. Then you could see if the data trends or looks random. If it was random, it would be very telling.

      But, since you said this is some measure of quality, then what does it say about MB, Smart, and Porsche? I mean, in what quality studies have you seen MB and Smart do this well? Porsche has gotten better in recent years, but not that good.

  • avatar
    crash sled

    Bertel, you’re a total buzzkill.

    Here we are forming a perfectly wonderful hanging party, and you come rudely barging-in with hard data. You Germans, I tell ya’. ;)

    .
    .
    .

    Agreed that this is extremely raw data, but if it’s raw, we know its collection is not skewed, and it hasn’t been global-warmingized. It’s being reported in total overall complaints per vehicle sold, and an OEM frequency and a rank order by Oem frequency falls out of that.

    That gives us, directionally, clear indication of who’s doing what overall. It lines up pretty much as all of us suspect, unless we’re living in a cave. Let’s exclude the small North American market share fish, and go right to the meat. The Detroit 3 are statistically lesser performers, and Toyota is well ahead of them.

    That is a clear indication of overall quality, and that conclusion doens’t require filtering, sorting, or anything else. That data confirms what we all intuitively know, even the fanboys.

    So systemically, we also intuitively know that Toyota has the ability to perform, and perform better than most, and thus we don’t likely have a problem with a rogue company, as some seem to be implying. That’s the big hitting issue, for my money. I’d be willing to shut down a company, Toyota or otherwise, if suddenly their calibration and control folks turned gangsta. I don’t see that here.

    Now, the data doesn’t lead us to conclusoins re sudden accel, as we know, so that definitely requires investigation. And it doesn’t speak to Toyota’s handling of sudden accel. They might be covering up something or blocking action, just as the Detroit 3 have historically done in such cases. We’ll see. Hang ‘em high, if so. It’d be a nice change. Given some of the junk I’ve been driving over the decades from Detroit, be nice to see somebody’s feet held to the fire.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      There is a problem with raw data though as well. You don’t know what it is telling you unless you look at it. This could be a reflection on cars, dealer experience, owner error, minor defect, or legitimate safety issue.

      I mean, this isn’t obviously about quality. If it was, how did MB do so well? What can we get from this data? Volvo has a reputation for very safe cars. They scored poorly. Isn’t this database supposed to be about safety problems?

      The other thing this doesn’t tell you is how bad the problems that are being reported are. We have people claiming that it is from defects that aren’t safety related, see comments about land rover and VW.

      But, for fun, I looked up a 2009 Buick Enclave. Reason I looked it up, I own one. Here are the complaints.

      1.
      COMPLAINT ABOUT HEADREST IN 2009 BUICK ENCLAVE. THE HEADREST TILTS SO FAR FORWARD THAT IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO SIT AGAINST THE BACK PART OF THE SEAT WITHOUT HAVING THE HEADREST PUSH MY NECK FORWARD AND DOWN. ROAD BUMPS CAUSE IT TO SLAM IN AND OUT AGAINST THE HEAD CAUSING NECK AND BACK STRAIN. THE DESIGN OF THIS HEADREST IS FLAWED AND DANGEROUS.

      This isn’t a safety problem, but a comfort issue. The customer doesn’t like the headrest design, which isn’t the best IMHO, but I believe it is required for less whiplash. Active head restraints I think would make this better, but the car didn’t come with them. Is it an issue. For the customer, yes, but it really isn’t about safety.

      2.
      WHILE MAKING A LEFT HAND TURN WAS HIT IN THE LEFT REAR PASSENGER DOOR. THE 10 SIDE IMPACT CURTAIN AIR BAGS DID NOT DEPLOY. WAS TOLD BY GM THAT THE CENTER POST BETWEEN FRONT AND BACK DOOR IS THE ONLY PLACE THAT HAS A SIDE IMPACT SENSOR THERE FROM THE FRONT DOOR TO THE BACK BUMPER OFFERS NO PROTECTION FROM A SIDE IMPACT OTHER THAN THE VEHICLE ITSELF.

      Of the bunch, the only real issue I see, but it might not be one. You have to get hard enough in an accident for airbags to deploy. They don’t deploy in every accident and they don’t all deploy, only some do. It depends on the collision. But, this might warrant an investigation to see if there is a safety defect. In my opinion, valid complaint, but still may not be a problem.

      3.
      IF WE DON’T DRIVE OUR 2009 BUICK ENCLAVE EVERY FEW DAYS, THE BATTERY GOES COMPLETELY DEAD AND WE HAVE TO CHARGE IT TO EVEN GET THE KEY OUT OF IT. THE DEALERSHIP SERVICE DEPARTMENT LOOKED AT IT AND SAID THE BATTERY IS FINE BUT THERE IS A “BULLETIN” (BUT NOT A RECALL) ABOUT A “PARASITIC POWER DRAW” PROBLEM IN THESE VEHICLES AND THEY WILL LET US KNOW WHEN THEY HAVE A REPAIR AVAILABLE. IN THE MEANTIME, WE ARE TO MAKE A POINT TO RUN OUR ENCLAVE EVERY FEW DAYS.

      What is the safety issue here? I have read about this issue on forums relating to my Enclave so I know that it is a real problem, but how is this safety related?

      Point being, I am sure the database is full of problems like this. It could be Toyota is doing better than their numbers suggest, or worse. Could be Honda buys back more vehicles quietly than other manufactures and their name gets a bump because of that. Raw data that has no validation what so ever is useless.

    • 0 avatar
      crash sled

      Oh, I’d say it’s got some use. As I say, directionally, it tells us something.

      Now, as you mentioned, “This could be a reflection on cars, dealer experience, owner error, minor defect, or legitimate safety issue.” But neither is it any different for any of the rest of those in the rank order of OEM’s. THey’re all on this data set’s same level playing field, particularly when we look only at the big NA sellers.

      The data hasn’t been validated, filtered, sorted, nothing, so yeah we should proceed cautiously. But as an indicator of “quality”, and overall performance of a maker, I believe it serves a purpose. Not THE purpose as regards safety, SA, etc, but A purpose. Toyota ain’t rogue, and I believe we can see that here in this data set.

      For example, try overlaying Ford’s 23,000,000 mankiller transmissions of years ago onto this dataset, and see what that does for you, or their combination cruise control and space heaters of recent vintage. That’s the sorta systemic stuff that would pop out of this type of data set, if it existed.

      Certainly, quantitative analysis is coveted, always, and this NHTSA data would require much massaging to facilitate that.

      But QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS is a valid exercise, and I think this data set, properly viewed, gives us a basis for a qualitative analysis.

    • 0 avatar

      Anybody can file an NHTSA report about anything. There is nothing that keeps me from filing 150 unintended acceleration reports, blaming the manufacturer of my choice.

      The question is indeed who looks into these complaints, and what is done with them. This question will haunt the NHTSA if an actual serious problem will be found.

      Apart from that, assuming that there is no coordinated filing campaign going on, the rate and frequency of the reports are simply an indication for customer satisfaction or the lack thereof. If I have a problem with my car and the problem is properly taken care of, there is no reason to file a report. If I’m mad as hell because the manufacturer and the dealer have left me in a lurch, then I will report them to the authorities.

      We had cases where frustrated dealers were given no support by the manufacturer. They had to deal with the customer and had no solution. Some actually urged the customer to write a letter to the President of the manufacturer, or file a report to the NHTSA so that something is done.

      So yes, all the raw data says is that Toyota customers are basically happy with their cars and their service. The Land Rover customers appear to have issues. Everything else requires a closer look at each report and the cars.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Old Russian proverb,
    “Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They Aren’t Out to Get You”.

    With this administration and the people they represent, assuming bad faith a priori will make you right more then 90% of the time.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    Rather than fretting about the exact order of the manufacturers on that list, if you divide the number of complints by the market share then positions 3 to 19 out of the 20 fall in the range 1+/-0.5.

    I don’t know what the statistical validity is of that table, but that seems to me to imply that there really isn’t a lot in it, for most brands.


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