The Truth About Cars » fmvss The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 10:00:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » fmvss NHTSA Submits Rear Visibility Rule to White House, May Mandate Backup Cameras Fri, 03 Jan 2014 15:34:29 +0000 backup-camera

After several delays, on Dec. 25th, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration submitted a proposed revised regulation to the White House that could mandate automakers to equip cars and light trucks with backup cameras. According to Automotive News, the regulation will be part of new rear visibility standards for passenger vehicles sold in the U.S and the rationale for the backup cameras is to prevent children from being injured or killed by drivers that don’t see them behind their cars when traveling in reverse. NHTSA estimates that backup cameras would save about 100 lives a year.

No details on the planned standards have been released yet. Their submission to the White House was spotted on a White House database that tracks the rulemaking process. They could mandate cameras or may allow automakers to comply using redesigned mirrors or electronic sensors. The notice confirms what former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last year, that the administration intends to release the final rule by January 2015.

The release of a final rule, part of implementing the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, enacted in 2008, has been delayed four times since the original deadline at the end of 2011. Congressional backers of that legislation blame the delays on the White House, saying that it rejected NHTSA’s original 2010 proposal that would have required all new light vehicles to be sold with backup cameras by 2014. Since then, backup cameras have become more common as navigation screens capable of displaying a camera feed have proliferated. Some automakers have made backup cameras standard equipment on some models and in the case of Honda, across their entire U.S. lineup.

Still, many cars and light trucks are not available with the safety feature and auto safety advocates have pressed for the regulations. In September, Consumers Union, the advocacy wing of Consumer Reports magazine, filed a lawsuit to compel the Obama Administration to make backup cameras part mandatory. Scott Michelman, an attorney at the group Public Citizen, which supported the lawsuit, said at the time, “When Congress ordered this rule issued in three years, they meant three years, not seven.”

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How Much Does Homologation Really Cost? Thu, 12 Dec 2013 14:00:09 +0000 homologation

Being teased with a desirable but unavailable variant of a car sold on our shores is as inevitable as death and taxes. Every year, there is some new supercar station wagon, ultra-efficient diesel or hot hatch/rally special that seems just within our grasp. Inevitably we learn that it won’t be making its way to America for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, it boils down to one simple factor: it would cost too much to bring it over.

The cost-benefit analysis is a cold reality of the automotive world, which is in the business of making money from selling cars, rather than a charity that provides enthusiasts with playthings to lust after, but not buy. Hard to believe I know. The most enthusiastic among us are also the quickest to dismiss the lack of profit potential as a legitimate reason for not bringing over their pet vehicle of choice, and I think part of this stems from not being able to give them a one-size-fits-all answer. Every single case is different, with wildly varying requirements for volume, pricing, regulatory compliance and other factors. But the theme remains the same. OEMs would not be able to recoup the cost of certifying the car through sales of the (often niche, low volume and/or expensive) vehicle.

While reading an old report from noted automotive consultant Glenn Mercer, I found this slide (above, and on page 10 of his report on Chinese cars), which outlines what it took to bring the Elise over to America. The pricetag: a whopping $50 million and 16 months time, and this is with a special airbag waiver that exempted them from having to install (and likely develop) FMVSS-complaint airbags – something that would have significantly added to the overall cost.

Is it likely that Lotus made money on the Elise? Who knows. Perhaps they were able to simultaneously federalize components for the European Elise and the Evora and realize some cost savings? Then again, given the constantly precarious financial situation Lotus seems to be in, maybe not. But at the very least, it gives us a perspective on how expensive it is to bring a low volume enthusiast model over to America. Think Audi can recoup the costs of something like an RS6 Avant  or even an S4 Avant given what it would cost? On the other hand, Mercedes, which already has both the E-Class wagon and the AMG V8 compliant with FMVSS, meaning much of the work and cost is already done. Now you know why our pleas often fall on deaf ears – and how blessed we are when we end up getting something cool.

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The United States Government Has Gone Too Far This Time Fri, 16 Aug 2013 13:30:51 +0000 superblue

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

In an act of almost incomprehensible stupidity, ignorance, and just plain mean-spiritedness, the Federal Government of the United States of America has apparently struck a blow against motoring enthusiasts across the country.

That’s right. The sons-of-bitches have banned ATE Super Blue brake fluid. Club racers and track rats have long known that by alternating Super Blue and ATE 200 Gold, it was possible to easily confirm that your system was properly flushed, even under low light or in hectic conditions.

The notice doesn’t make it absolutely plain that the G stepped in, but why else would Continental stop distributing and forcibly recall a product that has, to my knowledge, never been used to mislead or cheat or otherwise injure a motorist? I mean, sure, I’m running Super Blue in Boxxy, my 986S Anniversary Edition, right now, and driving it around on the street, but that isn’t hurting anyone. Super Blue is made for and sold to people who know what to do with it. There’s no risk of any kind here. I feel sick to my stomach. Yeah, it was never as good as, say, Motul 600, but it was the everyman’s brake fluid.

I’m going to wrap this up because I start to channel Thomas Paine, but seriously… with all the problems facing the United States in the year 2013, is SUPER BLUE RACE FLUID the biggest priority? The hell with this. If you guys need me, I’ll be out in the woods building a cabin or something.

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NHTSA Administrator Says Compliance With Standards At Time of Production Not Enough Mon, 15 Jul 2013 17:59:22 +0000 strickland-2012

In an interview with Automotive News (registration required), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration director David Strickland said that if automakers want to keep their cars and trucks from getting recalled, those cars must not just meet standards in effect at the time vehicles are produced, but that the car companies must also make sure they stay as safe, statistically, as competitors’ products that use different designs.


Though he didn’t explicitly say so, his remarks could be read as saying that the agency will aggressively pursue recalls even though the involved vehicles met all standards in effect when they were built. Companies apparently will not be able to avoid recalls by saying that their cars and trucks met all applicable standards when sold new. Strickland’s comments were made against the backdrop of the voluntary inspection and retrofitting of trailer hitches on some Jeep models to reduce the risk of punctures to the rear mounted gas tanks in the event of rear collisions

“It really is based on the notion of unreasonable risk. And that is an evolving notion,” Strickland told the AN. He said that NHTSA is obligated to reassess risks “if state of the art moves all the peers in one direction, and it appears that there is another part of the fleet that has not made those same moves or improvements.” If car makers want to avoid recalls, they’ll have to remain “within the zone of reasonable risk”.

When Chrysler was first ordered to recall 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs, the company claimed that the agency was changing the rules. The dispute raised the issue as to what exactly is a “standard” if that standard is fluid and subject to retroactive change. “NHTSA seems to be holding Chrysler Group to a new standard for fuel tank integrity that does not exist now and did not exist when the Jeep vehicles were manufactured,” the company at first said after the recall was announced, though as mentioned the company and NHTSA came to an agreement about Chrysler doing the inspections and retrofits voluntarily.

Though Strickland said that the use of fluid standards isn’t the result of any new interpretation of the laws the agency enforces, he also said that using the “reasonable risk” standard was a tactical solution to “upgrading” standards when the slow pace of  changing the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards legislatively doesn’t move fast enough in the agency’s opinion.

“It’s very hard to change or upgrade a federal motor vehicle safety standard,” he said. “Sometimes it can be decades. Sometimes it can be 20 or 30 years.” Using a standard that changes retroactively based on the concept of reasonable risk, the NHTSA director added, allows the agency to “to backstop the inability to reach back and upgrade standards – because of cost and time and all sorts of other factors.”

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Ford Pushes Congress For Vehicle Standards Harmonization Thu, 11 Apr 2013 16:39:12 +0000

A U.S. House of Represenatives subcommittee meeting became a forum for Ford to advocate on behalf of harmonized vehicle standards, as the US and EU continue to discuss a possible free trade deal.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s President of the Americas, said that harmonized standards would allow Ford to cut costs in areas like design, manufacturing and engineering. Ford is aiming to homogenize its lineup across the globe under its “One Ford” plan, eliminating regional models where necessary. Vehicles like the Edge and Mustang will be engineered for world markets in their next generation, while regional models like the rear-drive Falcon, sold in Australia and select world markets, will be killed off.

Automotive News reports bi-partisan support for the measure. Rep. John Dingell, whose Michigan congressional district encompasses Dearborn, where Ford is based, offered support for the measure, while Rep. Terry Lee, who chairs the subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade noted “positive effects that pursuing a regulatory mutual recognition standard could have on the domestic automotive industry.” Translation: if this goes through, we may just get the Focus RS.


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Ford Calls For Harmonized US-EU Vehicle Standards, Will Help Niche Vehicles Thu, 07 Mar 2013 21:12:05 +0000

With a US-EU free trade agreement looming on the horizon, Ford is calling for a harmonization between the US and EU vehicle standards, as well as a removal of tariffs on vehicles between the two entities.

Automotive News reports on some of the positives; niche vehicles could be imported without the expensive homologation process, and production flexibility would be drastically increased if the US accepted vehicles that adhered to the ECE standard as well as America’s own FMVSS regulations. Ford’s Wolfgang Schneider told Automotive News

“It will allow us far more flexibility to produce in the best place,” Wolfgang Schneider, Ford’s European vice president for governmental affairs, told Automotive News Europe in an interview. “Do we need this when we sell 500,000 units of a particular model in a country? No. But you are talking about 20,000 or 30,000, yes, because it enables you to bring in niche products.”

While European car makers and EU officials have expressed reservations about FTAs with Japan and South Korean, the US-EU deal has won widespread support. Ford in particular would stand to benefit, as its “One Ford” plan for a single, harmonized lineup could then be fully integrated (global Ranger and Focus RS, perhaps?).

Worth noting is that Ford stopped short of calling for true harmonization. The level of minutiae that would have to be agreed upon is apparently too daunting for either party to consider, and a likely stumbling block to reform. Instead, Ford suggested “mutual recognition”, which would ostensibly be some kind of reciprocity agreement whereby the US and EU would accept vehicle’s built to either standard.

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Canadian Government Investigating Price Discrepancies For New Cars Fri, 08 Feb 2013 14:00:08 +0000

Every Canadian consumer knows that when it comes to new car prices, we get screwed. Yes, Canada is a small market with higher taxes. It costs more to do business here in part because the high distribution costs can’t be amortized over 300-odd million people. In addition, things like metric instruments further complicate things.

But then there’s the question of why a Toyota RAV4, built two hours outside of Toronto, costs $2,890 less in Hawaii than it does in Canada. Why does an Oshawa-built Camaro demand a $4,685 premium in Canada? Where does BMW get off charging a $19,300 premium in the Great White North for a 535i xDrive, a 38.9 percent increase over the U.S. sticker?

The price discrepancy issue was the subject of a report by Canada’s Senate. Other consumer items like books and sporting goods were also investigated, but cars were a central focus. Interestingly enough, certain vehicles are actually cheaper to buy in Canada; these tend to be compact cars like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, which are popular with Canadians and built in Ontario.

Not so for other segments, like sports cars and luxury vehicles. The report mentions that consumers in Canada looking for these vehicles will pay the price that “the market will bear”. Translation: f**k you, we know we can gouge you, so we’ll do it. Of course, it’s the right of every business to set their own prices and earn a profit, which is precisely what makes it so difficult for the government to do anything about this matter. On the other hand, the compact segment is ultra-competitive in Canada, so it’s in the OEM’s interest to make sure the vehicles are priced competitively. But even mainstream cars like the Dodge Charger, built in a suburb of Toronto, can be as much as 20 percent higher in Canada than in the United States.

Some of the suggestions laid out for lowering vehicle prices, like lowering certain tariffs  may help lower the prices, but some experts interviewed in the report suggested that it was doubtful that the savings would be passed onto consumers by the OEMs. For domestic vehicles, it’s hard to imagine the government being able to do anything. Price controls for Camaros would be a farce, especially for a government as committed to free-market principles as the current Conservative government. Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the government will be able to do anything about it, though there’s one “left-field” savior that is just crazy enough to possibly make a difference.

One aspect that got a brief mention was the harmonization of safety standards between Canada and the U.S. Currently, Canada uses the FMVSS standards with a couple minor variations, and the OEMs have long used this compliance as an excuse for high MSRPs. What will really be interesting is if the proposed Canada-EU free trade deal leads to a harmonization between Canada and the UN/ECE standards. One complaint among Canadian car enthusiasts and OEMs has been that Canada’s market tastes have long been aligned with Europe, but the FMVSS-based standards mean that homologating European compact cars has been far too expensive. Meanwhile, Australia, which uses the UN standards and has a comparable market size to Canada, gets all manner of cars that North American enthusiasts can only fantasize about.

Imagine if the EU Free Trade deal opened the floodgates to a whole new swath of product for Canadian consumers? It may not make the Camaro any cheaper, but the amount of available models would increase exponentially, and auto makers would no doubt try and take advantage of the altered regulations to bring better-suited product to Canada. It’s hard to imagine greater overall choice not having any positive effect on vehicle prices. But then again, with things currently as nonsensical as they are, it’s tough to make that call definitively.

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