The Truth About Cars » NHTSA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:58:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » NHTSA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Fiat Chrysler May Have to Take Back 1.5M Defective Jeeps, Rams http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-may-take-back-1-5m-defective-jeeps-rams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fiat-chrysler-may-take-back-1-5m-defective-jeeps-rams/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125729 In an order detailing the largest civil penalty for an automaker so far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could have to buy back 500,000 defective trucks and accept trade-in above market value for 1 million defective Jeeps . The automaker’s record $105 million fine includes a $70 million […]

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FCA US LLC HQ WTFBBQ

In an order detailing the largest civil penalty for an automaker so far, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could have to buy back 500,000 defective trucks and accept trade-in above market value for 1 million defective Jeeps .

The automaker’s record $105 million fine includes a $70 million penalty, $20 million set aside for meeting safety standards dictated by the federal bureau and an additional $15 million in penalties if an independent monitor discovers further safety violations.

The record ruling comes after the agency said FCA botched recalls of more than 11 million vehicles for wide ranging issues, including Jeep models with rear gas tanks that could catch fire in rear collisions. The issue has been linked to more than 50 deaths. 

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind scolded the automaker in a statement Monday announcing the fine.

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said. “This action will provide relief to owners of defective vehicles, will help improve recall performance throughout the auto industry, and gives Fiat Chrysler the opportunity to embrace a proactive safety culture.”

According to a statement by the automaker, Jeep owners who haven’t yet complied with their recall could get a $100 gift card to bring their vehicle into a dealer. Owners of defective Jeep models would also be eligible to trade in their vehicle for $1,000 above fair market value.

In addition to the Jeep fix, FCA will attempt to purchase or fix for free Ram trucks or Chrysler SUVs with a suspension defect that could cause the car to lose control. FCA could resell those fixed cars.

The automaker will have to submit to independent monitoring of its recalls for the next three years, with NHTSA being able to extend that agreement further for an additional year.

Last week, FCA announced it would be recalling 1.4 million cars for a security vulnerability that could allow hackers to remotely take control of a vehicle.

Read the ruling here.

The vehicles that may be eligible for repurchase are:

• 2009-2012 Ram 1500s

• 2008-2012 Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4×4, Ram 2500 4×4, 3500 4×4, 4500 4×4, 4500 4×4

• 2009 Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango

• 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota

The vehicles that may be eligible for a $100 gift card for dealer inspection or $1,000 over market value for trade-in are:

• 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

• 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty

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Report: NHTSA to fine Fiat Chrysler $105M http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/report-nhtsa-to-fine-fiat-chrysler-105m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/report-nhtsa-to-fine-fiat-chrysler-105m/#comments Sun, 26 Jul 2015 14:07:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125241 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will fine Fiat Chrysler Automobiles $105 million for botching the recall of more than 11 million cars, including 1.6 million Jeeps with a fuel tank issue, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. The automaker faced fines of up to $700 million. As part of the settlement, FCA will agree to an independent […]

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1999 Grand Cherokee Launch-12

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will fine Fiat Chrysler Automobiles $105 million for botching the recall of more than 11 million cars, including 1.6 million Jeeps with a fuel tank issue, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

The automaker faced fines of up to $700 million.

As part of the settlement, FCA will agree to an independent monitor to audit its recalls. On Friday, FCA announced it was recalling 1.4 million cars and trucks for software that could be hacked and controlled remotely.

The automaker faced a congressional hearing this month for its failure to quickly recall Jeeps that could catch fire in a rear-end collision. In June, Chrysler refused to comply with a request by NHTSA to recall those Jeeps.

A bill is winding its way through Congress to change how NHTSA penalizes automakers and conducts recalls.

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Feds Investigating General Motors Over ‘Certified’ Used Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/feds-investigating-general-motors-certified-used-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/feds-investigating-general-motors-certified-used-cars/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 20:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124233 General Motors disclosed in its quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the automaker for selling used cars under recall, the Detroit News is reporting. According to the automaker, the FTC notified GM that it was investigating “certified pre-owned vehicle advertising where dealers had certified vehicles allegedly needing recall repairs.” […]

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General Motors Renaissance Center HQ

General Motors disclosed in its quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the automaker for selling used cars under recall, the Detroit News is reporting.

According to the automaker, the FTC notified GM that it was investigating “certified pre-owned vehicle advertising where dealers had certified vehicles allegedly needing recall repairs.”

The filing acknowledges the investigation is connected with the 2014 recall of 2.59 million cars with faulty ignition switches that could turn the car off while driving, disabling its airbags. So far, 124 deaths have been linked to the defect.

The investigation is significant partially because a bill winding through Congress would significantly change penalties associated with defective cars. This week, a Senate committee shot down a proposal that would have forced used car dealers to complete recall repairs on vehicles for sale. A similar measure compelling rental car companies to fix defective cars in their fleets survived.

GM is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice as well as attorneys general in every state for issues related to the faulty ignition switches. GM could be fined and face criminal penalties from the Justice Department.

“We continue to investigate these matters and believe we are cooperating fully with all requests for information in ongoing investigations. Such investigations could in the future result in the imposition of material damages, fines, civil consent orders, civil and criminal penalties or other remedies,” GM wrote in their filing.

 

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Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky Share Same Fire-Risk Parts with Hummer H3 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/pontiac-solstice-saturn-sky-catching-fire-due-parts-hummer-h3-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/pontiac-solstice-saturn-sky-catching-fire-due-parts-hummer-h3-recall/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 15:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1118569 Last week, we learned General Motors was recalling the majority of their Hummer H3 and H3T models due to a fire risk from a melting blower motor resistor and harness. We also learned GM didn’t issue the recall until they were threatened by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A few days ago, Jalopnik’s Michael Ballaban pointed out the […]

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burntmain

Last week, we learned General Motors was recalling the majority of their Hummer H3 and H3T models due to a fire risk from a melting blower motor resistor and harness. We also learned GM didn’t issue the recall until they were threatened by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A few days ago, Jalopnik’s Michael Ballaban pointed out the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon were also at risk due to similar components. These trucks may not be the last of the affected models as the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky also shared many HVAC components with the Hummer H3.

Searching through the NHTSA complaints database and user forums yielded many examples of melted and burnt blower motor resistors and harnesses for the GM roadster twins.

The Solstice and Sky actually have more parts in common with the H3 than even the Colorado and Canyon. While the trucks use a similar resistor with four pins, the Solstice and Sky use the same 5-pin resistor as the H3. Curiously enough, the roadsters and H3/H3T share a host of HVAC components, including the blower motor, blend door actuators and even the heater core.

Searching Solstice and Sky forums also produced case after case of melted harnesses and resistors. Many of the owners were buying the parts and replacing them on their own.

saturn1

The problem may stem from a harness that is either too short or too loose, causing arcing on the connection and resulting in melted components. The initial part number for the harness is 25797383, but it is no longer available under that number. The initial part was succeeded and released as part number 25867517 — then again as 25949869, the part that is currently available for purchase.

Part numbers can change for many reasons, including vendor changes, but I speculate in this case that GM may have changed the part to try and remedy its issues.

saturn2

Based on NHTSA records, the earliest complaints for the roadsters started showing up in 2008.

While the number of complaints for the Solstice and Sky is much lower than the H3, lower production numbers must also be taken into account when comparing total complaint counts to the H3. Despite fairly widespread issues with similar parts found on the H3,owners of Kappa-platform cars haven’t reported problems at the same rate.

The H3 recall states dealers should replace the harness and resistor module, both of which are shared parts. The 2006 Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent use the same part number for the resistor as the H3, Sky and Solstice. There are cases of multiple failures and, as noted in the complaint below, they also show GM was directly notified of the issue. The Equinox and Torrent moved to a different resistor design after 2006 and the issues seem to have been mitigated after that point.

equinox1
GM has not issued any recalls or bulletins for these other vehicles, even though complaints and pictures of damage appear to match the H3 issues. The part number changes could be an attempt by GM to remedy the issue before a recall was required, but as we have seen before, GM can take up to a decade to actually acknowledge issues and will keep silent and order parts to try and quietly repair vehicles.

The proof is out there and the right thing for GM to do is recall all of the related models.

[Image Source: hammy221/solsticeforum.com]

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Senate Committee Says Rental Cars Must Have Recall Repairs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/senate-committee-says-rental-cars-must-have-recall-repairs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/senate-committee-says-rental-cars-must-have-recall-repairs/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 18:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1117929 U.S. rental cars will need to comply with open recalls before being driven off the lots, a U.S. Senate panel decided Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. The measure was an about-face from an earlier proposal backed by automakers, consumer groups and some rental car companies, which would have allowed rental cars with known defects to continue to be […]

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US Senate Wing of the Capitol

U.S. rental cars will need to comply with open recalls before being driven off the lots, a U.S. Senate panel decided Wednesday, according to Bloomberg.

The measure was an about-face from an earlier proposal backed by automakers, consumer groups and some rental car companies, which would have allowed rental cars with known defects to continue to be driven, as long as those defects were disclosed to consumers. NHTSA asked lawmakers to consider the proposal on pulling defective cars off the road in February.

The bill’s opponents said the revised amendment could harm consumers by filling dealerships with rental cars waiting to be repaired.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said preventing rental car companies from issuing cars with known defects would ultimately be safer for drivers.

“When consumers and families drive a rental car off the lot, they should be able to do so with the confidence that car is safe to drive, and we’re one step closer to that peace of mind today,” she said, according to Bloomberg.

The amendment is part of a much larger, comprehensive bill that tackles automakers’ recalls and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ability to fine or penalize car companies.

The embattled bill, which was proposed by Republicans this month, would double the existing $35 million cap on fines for automakers and extra federal money for vehicle safety measures. Democrats opposed the larger measure, saying it didn’t go far enough. Democrats have introduced a much larger reform measure which would include a recall warning light for new cars.

 

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Report: Hummer Recall Only Happened After NHTSA Threatened GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/report-hummer-recall-happened-nhtsa-threatened-gm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/report-hummer-recall-happened-nhtsa-threatened-gm/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 21:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1115425 Jalopnik has an interesting story today about how General Motors negotiated its way into recalling 200,000 Hummers only after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration threatened to launch a formal investigation. Last week, Hummer recalled nearly 200,000 SUVs due to an increased fire risk because of a faulty HVAC harness that could melt and catch fire. GM knew about the problem […]

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Hummer H3. Photo courtesy wikipedia.org

Jalopnik has an interesting story today about how General Motors negotiated its way into recalling 200,000 Hummers only after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration threatened to launch a formal investigation.

Last week, Hummer recalled nearly 200,000 SUVs due to an increased fire risk because of a faulty HVAC harness that could melt and catch fire.

GM knew about the problem in 2008, Jalopnik writes, and did nothing until issuing a recall this July.

The story details a growing schism between NHTSA and automakers, who’ve been accused of having a cozy relationship before.

Officials at GM presented NHTSA officials with their accounting of the increased fire risk in Hummer H3 and H3T models in January. When federal officials audited the numbers later, they discovered a larger number of incidents than what GM may have reported.

According to Jalopnik, federal safety officials gave GM an ultimatum in June: recall or risk a federal investigation. GM issued a recall notice on July 9.

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Former NHTSA Boss Blocked From Testifying in Toyota Case http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/former-nhtsa-boss-blocked-testifying-toyota-case/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/former-nhtsa-boss-blocked-testifying-toyota-case/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113617 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is blocking former chief David Strickland from testifying in a California civil lawsuit for Toyota on issues regarding its push-button start systems in some of its cars. According to the Detroit News, NHTSA officials told lawyers in a letter that Strickland would be barred from testifying in the case as an […]

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All you need is love. Strickland. Picture courtesy detnews.comThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is blocking former chief David Strickland from testifying in a California civil lawsuit for Toyota on issues regarding its push-button start systems in some of its cars.

According to the Detroit News, NHTSA officials told lawyers in a letter that Strickland would be barred from testifying in the case as an expert witness.

“The agency has been roundly criticized for its relationship with Toyota in terms of recent enforcement actions, particularly regarding unintended acceleration,” NHTSA’s lawyer wrote in the letter. “Given this history, Mr. Strickland’s testimony as a former NHTSA administrator describing Toyota’s actions or conduct in this matter with approval, will likely diminish the agency’s ability to pursue a vigorous enforcement review of Toyota moving forward.”

Congress has said NHTSA wasn’t tough enough on Toyota when it looked into issues that its push-button start system could leave cars running without the keys present.

Toyota said it asked Strickland to testify on general matters in the lawsuit, but the agency barring the former administrator to testify is being praised as a harder line for what people say is a too-familiar relationship between former safety officials and automakers.

“For too long there has been a revolving door at NHTSA which allowed former NHTSA employees to seek lucrative employment with the same auto manufacturers they had at one time been charged with regulating,” Christine Spagnoli, a lawyer for the owners suing Toyota, told the Detroit News. “Hopefully, the denial of Mr. Strickland’s request to testify on behalf of Toyota is a sign that the new administrator recognizes that these historically cozy relationships between agency employees and the companies they are charged with regulating often results in undermining public trust.”

After leaving NHTSA in 2014, Strickland joined a Washington D.C.-based law firm that has also represented Fiat Chrysler. Former NHTSA officials are not allowed to directly lobby for automakers for two years after leaving the safety administration.

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FCA Awaits NHTSA’s Wrath After Recall Hearings http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fca-awaits-nhtsas-wrath-recall-hearings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/fca-awaits-nhtsas-wrath-recall-hearings/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 17:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107233 Yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the unusual step of hauling a single automaker to the Capitol to scold Fiat Chrysler for delays in recalls and repairs. The hearing is ahead of anticipated fines NHTSA may deal later this month, possibly as high as $700 million. Attention was focused on Jeep Liberties and Grand […]

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1999 Grand Cherokee Launch-12

Yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the unusual step of hauling a single automaker to the Capitol to scold Fiat Chrysler for delays in recalls and repairs. The hearing is ahead of anticipated fines NHTSA may deal later this month, possibly as high as $700 million.

Attention was focused on Jeep Liberties and Grand Cherokees with rear-mounted gas tanks that could leak fuel if struck in a high-speed rear collision and potentially catch fire. Also of importance is the rate at which Jeep notified its owners of the recall.

FCA’s Senior Vice President for Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance Scott Kunselman said at the hearing that FCA “could have done better in carrying out the campaigns.”


Owners of Grand Cherokees and Liberty SUVs had trailer hitches installed on their cars that could protect in low- to moderate-speed impact collisions. Eric Mayne, a spokesman for FCA, said that NHTSA tested the trailer hitches and found them to perform similarly to their peers.

A Massachusetts father testified at the hearing, saying his 17-year-old son was killed when the Grand Cherokee he was driving was struck and ignited. The issue has been linked to more than 50 deaths.

A second recall was recently issued for faulty wiring that could disable airbags.

NHTSA “tentatively concluded” FCA didn’t address the recalls in time, or adequately. Despite issuing a recall in June 2013, NHTSA said only 23 percent of the cars had been fixed by the end of April. FCA said that figure is now around 33 percent.

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Report: NHTSA Failed Consumers Over Automotive Safety http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/report-nhtsa-failed-consumers-over-automotive-safety/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/report-nhtsa-failed-consumers-over-automotive-safety/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 20:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097473 Last Friday, the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General dropped the sledgehammer on the NHTSA over its failings in automotive safety. The 42-page report released to the public Monday says the agency fails to do all it can to promote automotive safety, from carefully reviewing safety issues and holding automakers accountable for potential problems, […]

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BMW 325Ci on Fire

Last Friday, the U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General dropped the sledgehammer on the NHTSA over its failings in automotive safety.

The 42-page report released to the public Monday says the agency fails to do all it can to promote automotive safety, from carefully reviewing safety issues and holding automakers accountable for potential problems, to carefully collecting data and properly training its employees, The Detroit News reports.

The report — the result of the NHTSA’s stumblings surrounding the February 2014 General Motors ignition switch recall crisis — notes the agency ignored complaints as early as 2003 from consumers regarding air bag deployment failures in certain GM models over the years.

The issue isn’t out of the ordinary, unfortunately, as the agency was found to ignore 90 percent of all consumer complaints arriving daily. The screeners responsible for reading them spent mere “seconds” on each complaint, with one screener having gone over 78,000 in one year — 330/day — while working in other duties.

Regarding self-reporting from automakers, the NHTSA isn’t doing all it can to determine accuracy in what is reported. According to Jalopnik, what everyone else would call a fire, manufactures call it something else:

However, according to [NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation] staff, manufacturers routinely miscategorize safety incidents. For example, staff told us that some manufacturers avoid using the word “fire” in non-dealer field reports and instead use phrases such as “strange odor” to avoid categorizing an incident as fire-related.

The Inspector General’s report lists 17 major recommendations needed to extensively reform the NHTSA, reforms administrator Mark Rosekind plans to “aggressively implement” by June 2016. Rosekind and the Inspector General, Calvin Scovel, are among those set to testify before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday on automotive safety.

(Photo credit: Tony Webster/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

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NHTSA Facing The Music Over Role In 2014 GM Ignition Recall Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/nhtsa-facing-the-music-over-role-in-2014-gm-ignition-recall-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/nhtsa-facing-the-music-over-role-in-2014-gm-ignition-recall-crisis/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 17:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1087617 A year after General Motors went under the gun for its part of the February 2014 ignition recall crisis, the NHTSA is now facing the music for the rest. According to two internal reports released last Friday from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the agency failed several times to prevent the defective ignition switch found […]

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GMIgnitionAndSwitchAssembly02(1)

A year after General Motors went under the gun for its part of the February 2014 ignition recall crisis, the NHTSA is now facing the music for the rest.

According to two internal reports released last Friday from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the agency failed several times to prevent the defective ignition switch found in certain GM models from being repaired for over a decade, says The New York Times.

While the reports did lay the majority of the blame on GM, the blunt assessment of the NHTSA’s part of the story is now leading to improvements and revisions with the agency’s methodology into potential safety problems. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx confirmed as much during a conference call with reporters following the release of the reports, acknowledging “deficits” in the methodology, and admitting there was “room for self-improvement.”

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind added he had not disciplined or dismissed any officials involved in the GM recall, but did note the improper handling of the situation “changed the culture” at the agency to the point where questioning the information received and assumptions pursued were encouraged.

The changes planned for the agency including putting automakers “on notice” without the need for gathering more evidence beforehand if a potential problem comes up, adopting a so-called “risk control” program to better align its departments and foster sharing of safety information, and instituting a formal process to contact lawyers representing affected litigants.

Finally, the NHTSA will be monitored by a team of experts over the next year, including those formerly of NASA and the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as a professor of medicine and engineering from the University of Michigan.

The two reports are only the first to give the agency the once-over; the Transportation Department inspector general will give their assessment later in June.

[Photo credit: General Motors]

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FCA Set To Meet NHTSA Over Recalls Despite Desire To Cancel Hearing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-set-to-meet-nhtsa-over-recalls-despite-desire-to-cancel-hearing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/fca-set-to-meet-nhtsa-over-recalls-despite-desire-to-cancel-hearing/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 20:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085601 Though FCA insists its compliance with the NHTSA over its recalls no longer merits a hearing, the agency will press forward with its order. The automaker is set to meet the agency for a special hearing July 2 to discuss its handling of 20 recalls covering 11 million vehicles since 2013, Detroit Free Press reports, […]

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-013

Though FCA insists its compliance with the NHTSA over its recalls no longer merits a hearing, the agency will press forward with its order.

The automaker is set to meet the agency for a special hearing July 2 to discuss its handling of 20 recalls covering 11 million vehicles since 2013, Detroit Free Press reports, and was sent a 12-page questionnaire to answer by June 1. FCA sent an 18-page response back to the NHTSA, giving details on its safety record, repair completion rates, and how it will handle safety concerns moving forward.

Thus, FCA believes a meeting the NHTSA is no longer necessary. However, NHTSA representative Gordon Trowbridge said the hearing will go on as planned, explaining the procedure “is a part of the process for determining whether the company has met its obligations.”

The agency itself praised FCA Thursday for its compliance with the order and thoroughness it was undertaken, while the automaker said it has taken a number of actions to improve product safety, including reviews of the recall process and creating a stand-alone organization to help with safety and compliance.

[Photo credit: Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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Electronic Stability Control Required On All Heavy Trucks, Large Buses By 2017 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/electronic-stability-control-required-on-all-heavy-trucks-large-buses-by-2017/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/electronic-stability-control-required-on-all-heavy-trucks-large-buses-by-2017/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 16:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084225 Two years from now, all heavy trucks and large buses will be required to equip electronic stability control per a new rule from the NHTSA. The new rule, finalized Wednesday, would affect all trucks and buses exceeding 26,000 pounds in total weight, USA Today reports, and is expected to prevent over 1,700 crashes, 649 injuries, […]

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Heavy Truck Rollover Circa April 2006

Two years from now, all heavy trucks and large buses will be required to equip electronic stability control per a new rule from the NHTSA.

The new rule, finalized Wednesday, would affect all trucks and buses exceeding 26,000 pounds in total weight, USA Today reports, and is expected to prevent over 1,700 crashes, 649 injuries, 49 fatalities, and up to 56 percent of rollovers on the road per year once it comes into force in 2017.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind both offered praise for the new rule. Foxx declared ESC “a remarkable success story” in its implementation on cars since 2012, while Rosekind added the technology would be “a win for the safety and convenience of the traveling public and for our economy.”

The rule’s finalization, coming after a 2011 recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board to mandate ESC’s use in trucks and buses, was announced on the same day three were killed in an accident in Pennsylvania involving a semi-trailer colliding with a bus ferrying Italian tourists. Whether ESC would have prevented the accident remains unknown at this time.

[Photo credit: Bjørn Bulthuis/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0]

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Automakers, NHTSA Meet To Discuss Increasing Recall Completion Rates http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automakers-nhtsa-meet-discuss-increasing-recall-completion-rates/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automakers-nhtsa-meet-discuss-increasing-recall-completion-rates/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 18:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056394 Despite the numerous recalls over the past year, recall completion rates are not at 100 percent. The NHTSA and automakers hope to change this. The agency met with representatives of General Motors, Honda and other automakers Tuesday to discuss ways to encourage affected consumers to take action when a recall is issued, Bloomberg reports. In […]

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Mark Rosekind Circa December 2014

Despite the numerous recalls over the past year, recall completion rates are not at 100 percent. The NHTSA and automakers hope to change this.

The agency met with representatives of General Motors, Honda and other automakers Tuesday to discuss ways to encourage affected consumers to take action when a recall is issued, Bloomberg reports.

In the case of GM, the automaker studied those who didn’t take action, then did everything it could to make them aware of a recall issue with the aim of bringing those consumers into the repair shop. However, even with 98 percent of GM owners made aware of recalls as a result of the campaign, inaction still occurred. Of those who did finally act, customer relationship management director Julie Heisel noted it took multiple mailings, phone calls, and assurances of loaner vehicles before those consumers brought their affected vehicles in for repair.

As it stands, the average completion rate for recall repairs comes to 75 percent, though the older the vehicle is, the less likely it will be repaired, according to The Detroit News: 15 percent for vehicles older than 10 years versus 83 percent for newer models.

In 2014, automakers recalled 63.9 vehicles in a record total of 803 recalls, including the February 2014 ignition switch recall issued by GM, and the ongoing Takata airbag recall affecting Honda and nine other automakers.

[Photo credit: Senator Claire McCaskill/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0]

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NHTSA To Gain Broader Powers Upon Transportation Bill Approval http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nhtsa-gain-broader-powers-upon-transportation-bill-approval/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nhtsa-gain-broader-powers-upon-transportation-bill-approval/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033457 A transportation bill sent to Congress Monday would grant the NHTSA the authority to stop automakers from selling vehicles with dangerous safety problems. Automotive News reports the bill — the $478-billion, six-year Grow America Act penned by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx — would give the agency “imminent hazard authority” to ground vehicles “in cases […]

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NHTSA-logo-large

A transportation bill sent to Congress Monday would grant the NHTSA the authority to stop automakers from selling vehicles with dangerous safety problems.

Automotive News reports the bill — the $478-billion, six-year Grow America Act penned by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx — would give the agency “imminent hazard authority” to ground vehicles “in cases where there is an imminent risk of injury or death,” which would be used before a determining a problem exists, and without input from the affected automaker or supplier.

The bill also triples the funding and doubles the staffing for the NHTSA, increases the fine it can levy from $35 million to $300 million; introduces a pilot program to improve the recall process on the owner’s end; requires dealers to check for recalls every time a vehicle comes in for servicing; and mandates that all used and rental vehicles with open recalls to be repaired before sale or rental.

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NHTSA: Marijuana Use Not Likely To Increase Accident Risk http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/nhtsa-marijuana-use-not-likely-increase-accident-risk/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/nhtsa-marijuana-use-not-likely-increase-accident-risk/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995362 Planning to light one up before visiting the local drive-thru taquería? The NHTSA says marijuana use might not increase the risk of an accident after all. According to AutoGuide, the agency’s study on the matter — the “most precisely controlled” study of its kind to date — says that while marijuana users may end up […]

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Jeff Spicoli et al Tumble Out of Volkswagen Type II

Planning to light one up before visiting the local drive-thru taquería? The NHTSA says marijuana use might not increase the risk of an accident after all.

According to AutoGuide, the agency’s study on the matter — the “most precisely controlled” study of its kind to date — says that while marijuana users may end up in accidents more often, but that said increase is coincidental:

Analyses incorporating adjustments for age, gender, ethnicity, and alcohol concentration level did not show a significant increase in levels of crash risk associated with the presence of drugs. This finding indicates that these other variables (age, gender ethnicity and alcohol use) were highly correlated with drug use and account for much of the increased risk associated with the use of illegal drugs and with THC.

Despite the findings, NHTSA associate administrator for research and program development Jeff Michael cautions that marijuana users shouldn’t drive while impaired, especially as the drug does bring on impairment.

The study took place in Virginia Beach, Va. for 20 months with a sample of 9,000, two-thirds of whom had never been in an accident.

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Automaker Alliance Seek Kelly For Takata Probe Panel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/automaker-alliance-seek-kelly-takata-probe-panel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/automaker-alliance-seek-kelly-takata-probe-panel/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 11:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994762 Concerned with Takata’s ongoing airbag woes, ten automakers are assembling to investigate the supplier, with former NHTSA chief David Kelly likely to helm. Autoblog reports the alliance — composed of General Motors, FCA US, Ford, Honda, Toyota and five others — are in talks with Kelly to head the investigation effort, with a final decision […]

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Takata Logo on Belt

Concerned with Takata’s ongoing airbag woes, ten automakers are assembling to investigate the supplier, with former NHTSA chief David Kelly likely to helm.

Autoblog reports the alliance — composed of General Motors, FCA US, Ford, Honda, Toyota and five others — are in talks with Kelly to head the investigation effort, with a final decision expected in the near future. Whomever does ultimately lead the probe will have a few questions needing answers, from how Takata’s airbags failed to protect their occupants, to whether or not newer modules will follow down the same road years from now.

The alliance’s investigation panel joins two others in the works: one involving the supplier and helmed by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Samuel Skinner, the other led by NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman with help from outside engineers.

As for the supplier itself, Takata’s bottom line is reddening further with a projected ¥31 billion ($264 million USD) loss through the end of FY 2014 in March. The new projection is higher than the ¥25 billion ($214 million) previously forecasted.

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NHTSA Ready To Force Nationwide Takata Airbag Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962073 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags. The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in […]

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Takata-jpg

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags.

The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in addition to those already recalled.

The first act in bringing the named parties to trial will be a formal demand letter issued to all concerned. Upon refusal, the NHTSA will file a suit against each party in U.S. District Court, a process that could last for months, if not years.

The die was cast when Takata rebuffed the agency’s request earlier this month to expand its recall efforts beyond high-humidity locations in warm climates around the United States, including Florida and Hawaii.

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Piston Slap: A Grey Market Global Ranger? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-global-ranger-management/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:57:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912394 H.Y. writes: Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days? how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price? 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ? how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate? what if the truck […]

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H.Y. writes:
Hi Sajeev, the global Ford Ranger is still sold overseas now.  What are the challenges for a person to import a modern used Ranger these days?
  • how much addedcostsontopofthepurchase/transport price?
    • 25% truck import duty?  even with a 4-door model ?
  • how much paper work?  US customs, EPA, State safety inspection, DMV plate?
  • what if the truck has a broken or no engine/transmission, would that make the import any easier/cheaper?
    • if it has no engine, install a local used engine in the US?
  • does it matter if the truck is from Mexico,Thailand, South America…?  any easier rules?
    • RHD personal vehicle is allowed in the US?
Thanks.

Sajeev answers:

Importing a Global Ranger?  Oh hell no!  As per NHTSA:

“As a general rule, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) to be imported on a permanent basis.”

There’s a reason why I imported my Sierra.  Well, aside from the sheer stupidity of wanting a brown jellybean-shaped hatchback from London: it was also over 25 years old.  It just comes in like any other car, and depending on your state, obtaining a title involves extra paperwork, classic car insurance and a (sometimes) basic vehicle inspection. No need to get federal approval over emissions tests, crash standards, noise regulations and who the hell knows what else?

So it’s time to give up. Instead buy one of the Last Great Compact Trucks in the USA:  especially since I got 30.1 MPG in my 2.3L Duratec 5-speed Ranger on a recent trip to San Antonio/Austin/Round Rock in mostly highway driving.

The time, money and stress you’ll avoid makes you forget about that cool Global Ranger.  Console yourself with one of these 25 year old beauties:  it sure worked for me.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Obama Administration’s Transportation Bill Would Give NHTSA Power to Regulate Smartphone Apps http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/obama-administrations-transportation-bill-would-give-nhtsa-power-to-regulate-smartphone-apps/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/obama-administrations-transportation-bill-would-give-nhtsa-power-to-regulate-smartphone-apps/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:55:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=845265 The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration’s proposed transportation bill would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explicit authority to regulate in-vehicle navigation aids of all types. The regulations would not just apply to built in navigation systems as the legislation would also give NHTSA authority to regulate smartphone apps when used […]

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Waze-navigation-app

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama administration’s proposed transportation bill would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration explicit authority to regulate in-vehicle navigation aids of all types. The regulations would not just apply to built in navigation systems as the legislation would also give NHTSA authority to regulate smartphone apps when used in a vehicle. While drivers and technology companies might object, the proposals have the endorsement of the major car companies who already comply with the agency’s voluntary guidelines for factory installed nav systems that restrict driver contact with those systems.

Representatives for the tech industry say that the legislation is not workable nor enforceable. “[Regulators] don’t have enough software engineers,” said Catherine McCullough, executive director of the Intelligent Car Coalition, a technology industry trade group. “They don’t have the budget or the structure to oversee both Silicon Valley and the auto industry.”

On its part, NHTSA regulators say that they already have the authority to control in-car navigation aids, which raises the question as to why they want it made statutory law.

Former NHTSA administrator David L. Strickland, has twice testified before Congress with the agency’s position that nav systems, including smartphone nav apps, could be “classified as motor vehicle equipment” like some other electronic car accessories. In response, the electronics industry said that there’s a broad difference between a smart key and a smartphone.

One concern of regulators are smartphone apps that merge navigation information with social networking. Waze, which is owned by Google, uses a network of users to report, in real time, traffic and road conditions, hazards and the location of police cars. The Waze user agreement and the app interface prohibits the sending of messages to their network when the car is in motion, but that can be overridden by indicating that a passenger is entering the data.

Navigation and mapping are important parts of the business plans of large tech companies like Apple and Google. Both of those companies use data and contextual information gathered from users to augment search functions and other applications.

Tech companies have fears that the new legislation would give NHTSA the power to review smartphone apps before they go on sale, but NHTSA claims that in the same way they regulate cars and light trucks, they would have the authority to have an app modified if it was found to be dangerous. Considering all of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that automakers must meet before they sell a vehicle, the tech companies’ concerns may be well warranted.

Then there is the practical aspect of enforcement. Harold Feld, of Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group, asked that with some kind of map application on nearly every smartphone available in the United States, “Does their regulatory status change in a car? How the heck would anyone monitor that?”

Safety advocates and regulators respond that unless there are uniform regulations for all navigation aids used in cars, people will not use the regulated built-in devices and instead use their own hand-held devices, introducing the possibility of distracted driving. That position is supported by the automakers. “If you put restrictions on the built-in systems designed to be used while driving, it’s going to encourage people to use hand-held devices that are not optimal for use by a driver,” said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “We believe that if you’re looking at a smaller screen, that’s less effective than looking at a larger screen on the dashboard.”

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Analysis: Why Isn’t NHTSA Sharing The Blame With GM? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/analysis-why-isnt-nhtsa-sharing-the-blame-with-gm/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/analysis-why-isnt-nhtsa-sharing-the-blame-with-gm/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 15:54:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838473 As many of you know by now, the Valukas report on GM’s handling of the ignition switch depicts a fat, complex organization that is deeply broken. A company with so many incompetent cogs, it is incapable of coordinating a surprise birthday party let alone a conspiracy. And that’s the most alarming part of the report – […]

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GM

As many of you know by now, the Valukas report on GM’s handling of the ignition switch depicts a fat, complex organization that is deeply broken. A company with so many incompetent cogs, it is incapable of coordinating a surprise birthday party let alone a conspiracy. And that’s the most alarming part of the report – that none of the employees appear to have acted in malice or colluded to save money or protect the brand. Instead the report paints a picture of apathetic, lazy employees and an even more careless litany of incoherent processes in the mission to detect and address vehicle safety defects.

This is far more dangerous than any calculated, unscrupulous group of executives colluding to hide a safety issue. Incompetency, whether it is in engineering, investigations or the administration of both means defects just simply go unnoticed and as such unresolved.  In terms of corporate responsibility it’s the equivalent of a juvenile “whatev” *shoulder shrug*.

While Ray DeGiorgio, the engineer behind the infamous undocumented part change, is mostly to blame for delaying the connection between the ignition switch and airbag non-deployments,  the corporate mentality that something as vital as your ignition turning off can relegated to a “convenience issue” is scary. But this applies doubly to NHTSA as well. Remember America’s vehicle safety overseer received GM’s TSB regarding the ignition switch in 2005 and gave it the government nod.

While GM is responsible for the safety of its vehicles should NHTSA share in the blame?

The Valukas report references a crash investigation conducted by Indiana University’s Transportation Research Center of a 2006 fatal single-vehicle accident involving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Wisconsin (pictured). The Valukas report says that GM had not seen that university’s 26-page report until 2014 even though it was found on GM’s servers.Crashed Cobalt WIS

The accident investigation was conducted at the request of NHTSA and references the 2005 TSB, confirms via EDR (electronic data recorder) that the ignition switch was in the accessory position during the crash and hypothesized that the ignition switch was one of two theories as to why the airbags failed to deploy. The other theory being that the first impact with a smaller telephone box may have signaled to the smart airbags that a deployment was not appropriate.

The team conducting the on-site investigation of the accident did not look closely at the link between the ignition switch and loss of power to the airbag because “such an undertaking was beyond the scope of this investigation.”  If the goal of the report was to determine the cause of the airbag non-deployment how could the relationship between the ignition switch and the loss of power to the airbag not have been within scope?

The university team provided the report to NHTSA in 2007. One page two of the report, the Technical Document Page, they state that the loss of power from a faulty ignition switch was one of two theories as to why the airbags did not deploy.  Did NHTSA take this and share it formally with GM? If not, why not? Are these reports reviewed by senior officials or are they simply rubber stamped and archived? Are potential defects identified referred from Special Crash Investigations (SCI), the division that requested this report, to the Office of Defects and Investigations (ODI), the group responsible for “undertaking” safety defect reviews? Could it be that NHTSA is as bureaucratically mismanaged as GM?

Keep in mind that unlike GM, NHTSA only has one single mission – oversight of vehicle safety. They are not surrounded by temptations like pleasing shareholders, cost targets or individual performance gains. Then again, given recent reports on employees at the Veterans Affairs Administration, maybe safety employees have some obscure rewarding metric on closing cases.

Last month the Department of Transportation Inspector General announced a review of NHTSA’s handling of the ignition switch recall among other things. In their review the IG should consider looking into the general information sharing practices between SCI and ODI when it comes to vehicle defects.

While the Valukus Report was intended to focus on GM’s handling of the defective part, it raises questions about the effectiveness of federal regulators who had similar (if not more) information than GM regarding the ignition failures and the non-deployment of airbags.

While Mr. Valukus and Ms. Barra will testify before Congress soon, NHTSA won’t likely be called to the Hill upon the completion of the Inspector General’s review. Depending on the IG review, we could learn more about if or how much blame NHTSA could share with GM in the timely discovery and remedy of vehicle safety defects.

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Open Thread: Valukas Report Released By NHTSA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/open-thread-valukas-report-released-by-nhtsa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/open-thread-valukas-report-released-by-nhtsa/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 16:21:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838233 Today, GM held a press conference regarding the Valukas Report on GM’s Ignition Switch Recalls, featuring CEO Mary Barra, as well as top execs like Mark Reuss and Dan Amman. The only problem was that the report had yet to be released, denying journalists the chance to question GM brass on its findings. Just minutes […]

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Valukascover

Today, GM held a press conference regarding the Valukas Report on GM’s Ignition Switch Recalls, featuring CEO Mary Barra, as well as top execs like Mark Reuss and Dan Amman. The only problem was that the report had yet to be released, denying journalists the chance to question GM brass on its findings.

Just minutes ago, the report surfaced online, and we are in the process of reading and analyzing the report. For now, you can download a copy here. Feel free to discuss your own findings in the comments thread. At the press conference, GM also announced the dismissal of 15 unnamed executives, as well as a soon-to-be-detailed compensation program for victims.

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Too Big To Fail, Too Confused To Operate: Analysis Of 619 Pages Of Cobalt Engineering Documents [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799138   The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out […]

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DSC_9144
The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out of the “run” position; and in the case of several accidents, allowed the ignition cylinder to rotate out of the run condition before or during accidents, causing the airbags to not deploy when required.

The documents, totaling 619 pages (some with repeat info), reveal just how deep seated “old GM” was in their cost cutting ways (Driving down supplier costs to the point of sacrificing quality, admittedly poorly designed ignition cylinder, and removing internal quality control on the parts), and just how blind sided “new GM” was during their investigations. It also confirms how suspended engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the ignition switch response, and fuzzy problem solving. Full text and an analysis of key documents below.

We already know the basics of how this happened, but it’s still surprising just how ingrained GM was in putting the issue aside. The key issues are these:

  • GM became aware of the ignition issue in the 2001 preproduction Saturn Ion and the 2005 preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Gary Altman initiated the report that lead to the insert, and Ray DeGiorgio consulted on the fix and argued against ignition switch changes.
  • Many different options were proposed, including suggestions from Delphi.
  • Cost played a major role in the decision to not recall the ignition switch early on.
  • The later key insert was the result, and was seen not as a fix, but as a “containment.”
  • GM also had very little oversight on parts from Delphi, only relying on Delphi’s incomplete testing.
  • GM’s engineers knowingly put the cars to market with a defective ignition switch.
  • This lead to ISB #05-02-35-007.
  • In 2006, DeGiorgio eventually signed off on design changes for Delphi, that included a stronger spring and plunger for the detent mechanism in the ignition cylinder, which provides a physical resistance between the different key positions.
  • When implemented in 2007, the new ignition cylinders cost less than a dollar per unit more than the original design; $400,000 to retool the production lines. These are the same changes that were deemed “not an acceptable business case” in 2005
  • As company, however, no one knew who signed off on the change until the Melton family lawsuit.
  • In court, DeGiorgio testified that he was unaware of changes to the ignition cylinder that would have effected the detents, only mentioning the key change..
  • Later investigations showed that the Cobalt had a substantial number of airbag warranty claims.
  • Higher level GM representatives broadsided by NHTSA’s investigations and disapproval of their slow reaction to other recent recalls.

First up, Gary Altman’s and Ray Giorgio’s role in the ignition cylinder issue is a problem. In court, Altman claimed that he did not feel that the Melton’s car was “unsafe.” This coming after submitting the initial mechanical complaint about the ignition falling out of run, in 2004:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf
During the investigation, several different approaches to modify the ignition cylinder were brought up to DeGiorgio. All of which were quickly dismissed by DeGiorgio, because the switch was already “very fragile,”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (1)
Later on, all fixes were dropped, as it wasn’t deemed necessary. With a tight deadline and budget, the engineers could not justify any of the fixes at the time, as it wasn’t an “acceptable business case.”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (2) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (3) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (4)

In 2006, DeGiorgio finally signed off on a design change for Delphi. The design change included  a stronger spring and longer detent plunger to increase the force needed to switch the key between different positions, along with an unrelated electrical upgrade. In an unexplained move, DeGiorgio did not assign a new part number to the improved switch design. The design change added 90 cents to the parts cost, and about $400,000 in tooling costs.

 

cobalt report 3
docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD047.pdf (1)

But, with this large of a role in the decision to delay the redesigned ignition switch, DeGiorgio claimed that he was not aware of any mechanical changes to the switches during his testimony in the Melton family suit against GM:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD056.pdf
Though, he did sign off on the changes, and worked with Delphi to test batches of ignition cylinders that contained an upgraded PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and detent plunger:

cobalt report 14

democrats.energycommerce.house.gov sites default files documents GM-Commodity-Validation-Sign-Off-2006-4-26.pdf

 

Curiously enough, though, is that GM had very little oversight on Delphi’s quality control, and Delphi did not check the rotational torque needed to turn past the switches detents. GM simply accepted Delphi’s parts and trusted their QC. But with rumored tensions between GM and Delphi, it’s said that cost cutting measures might be to blame as GM forced Delphi to push prices down, sacrificing parts quality. If this were true, GM’s choice to outsource QC to the supplier left them in the dark for too long, preventing them from seeing the immediate effects of their problems with Delphi:

cobalt report 4cobalt report 18

While this was going on, GM released the key insert as a “containment solution;” it would be the minimum needed to alleviate the problem for effected customers. This was chosen over two other modifications to the ignition cylinder, which were seen as a “partial solution” in the case of adding an additional detent mechanism to add more resistance to rotating the key out of “run,” and a “sure solution” involving moving the ignition switch higher up on the column, using a gear drive system to reach the rotary switch responsible for selecting which electrical circuit to run on. The added gearing would also increase rotational torque, the design stated.
cobalt report 11
cobalt report 12cobalt report 13
In 2007, the NHTSA began to probe into the surprising number of airbag-related complaints, despite “GM’s indications that they see no specific pattern.”
cobalt report 15

The issue was set aside, for the most part, until GM was informed by the Melton suit that there was a possible design change in the switch, based on an investigation into junkyard-found switches from the effected models. The testing showed that there was a noticeable change in detent torque, but no documentation from GM to show the changes. The GM engineers and representatives in the case were caught off guard by this design change, and began an internal investigation. This investigation lead GM engineer Brian Stouffer to find the documents that showed DeGiorgio signing off on design changes with no part number change.

cobalt report 5cobalt report 16
Finally, the most impressive point of this story comes from GM’s reactions to the NHTSA’s investigations. The NHTSA emailed GM asking for clarification on several other recalls, documenting GM’s reactions to other product issues with a disdain for GM’s penchant for doing the least amout possible to avoid full recalls; ie: regional recalls for parts failures in the rust-belt states. Saying that some were broadsided by this information would be an understatement:

cobalt report 19[…]
cobalt report 19

The response by Mike Robinson, VP for environment, energy and safety policy, sums up GM’s perception and confusion over their responses to the Cobalt issue, and several other poor recall responses in the past. “This note from NHTsA, both the content and tone, comes like a bolt out of the blue,” he states, “We worked way too hard to earn a reputation as the best and we are not going to let this slide.”

cobalt report 19
To summarize, GM is its own worst enemy. They responded poorly to incredibly early reports, dismissing the issue too quickly as a casual problem. With reports going back to 2001, during the Saturn Ion development, there is no reason why the switch should have come unmodified to the Cobalt development; never mind the dismissal of the problem before the car was produced. Ray DeGiorgio’s role in this problem is larger than he initially lead on in the Melton case, though his motive in this discrepancy is unknown at this time.

Full text to all 619 pages can be find here.

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U.S. DoT To Mandate Vehicle to Vehicle Telematics for Crash Avoidance, Sparking Privacy Concerns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/u-s-dot-to-mandate-vehicle-to-vehicle-telematics-for-crash-avoidance-sparking-privacy-concerns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/u-s-dot-to-mandate-vehicle-to-vehicle-telematics-for-crash-avoidance-sparking-privacy-concerns/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 10:30:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=732602 U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Automotive News that U.S. regulators will soon begin working on telematics regulations that will require new cars and light trucks sold in the United States to be equipped with systems for vehicle to vehicle communications. The impetus is safety, as the telematic systems can be integrated with semi-autonomous crash […]

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told Automotive News that U.S. regulators will soon begin working on telematics regulations that will require new cars and light trucks sold in the United States to be equipped with systems for vehicle to vehicle communications. The impetus is safety, as the telematic systems can be integrated with semi-autonomous crash avoidance systems.

Foxx didn’t set a date when the mandate would become effective, but he made it clear that he supports the technology, calling it a “moon shot” and saying that it could prevent 70 to 80 percent of crashes involving drivers that are not impaired.

“Keeping drivers safe is the most important advantage of V2V, but it’s just one of many,” Foxx said. “V2V can also help reduce congestion and save fuel. The potential of this technology is absolutely enormous.”

Car companies like GM, Toyota and VW, have been working together, along with government regulators and engineers for more than a decade on standards for what some have called “the internet of cars” or “connected cars”.

That connection would take place over a dedicated wireless wireless frequency called Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or DSRC, which would be separate from the current 3G and 4G cellular networks that currently allow Internet-based services in your car.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbying group, was reserved in its reaction. A spokesperson for the Alliance told AN that it recognizes the benefits of DSRC technology, but that there are issues that need to be resolved and that the organization’s members prefer a voluntary standard to a mandate.

“DSRC radios may play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together,” the AAM said in a statement. “We need to address security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the ‘network effect’ and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework.”

Car companies are starting to roll out connected cars in Europe, with the first vehicles hitting the road sometime next year. London-based consultancy ABI Research predicted last year that global acceptance of the technology in new vehicles will grow from 10 percent in 2018 to 70 percent by 2027.

DSRC works much like the Wi-fi used by personal computers and other electronic devices, and can handle data from the cameras and sensors that have proliferated in today’s cars. Vehicles equipped with DRSC chips would receive and process signals from nearby DRSC-enabled cars to learn their location, direction and speed. If a driver does not react to an impending collision, the car could then sound a warning or apply the brakes automatically to prevent an accident.

Regulators say that the system could also process signals from smartphones and other devices carried by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of older cars. Aftermarket transmitters for retrofitting are also anticipated, though there is no word yet on making them mandatory on all vehicles, not just a new factory standard on new cars.

A$25 million study conducted on the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan proved that telematics products from different vehicle manufacturers and suppliers will communicate with one another. The government agency said that a published report will be released for public comment in the next few weeks.

The move to embrace DSRC technology is part of a shift in strategy by regulators from passive safety systems to more active technologies. As cars and light trucks have gotten safer, finding areas to improve accident survival rates has become harder.

“While the auto industry has made great strides to reduce fatalities and injuries after a crash,” said Scott Belcher, president of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, “the next giant leap is to enable real-time communication between vehicles and with the world around them so crashes can be avoided in the first place.”

Currently automakers use a differing variety of warning sounds and symbols in their accident avoidance systems. Mercedes-Benz has flashing lights, General Motors has patented a vibrating seat that warns drivers, and Ford uses a haptic steering wheel. The government could implement standardizing regulations on those warnings.

Privacy advocates have concerns because regulators and automakers are also thinking of other ways that DSRC could be used for purposes besides safety. Richard Bishop, who led the DOT’s vehicle automation program in the 1990s, says that the new wireless technology could be used could be used to collect tolls, or to tax drivers based on the number of miles they travel. As the use of hybrids and EVs grows, governments are looking to alternatives to taxes on gasoline and diesel.

In addition to privacy as related to civil liberties and the government possibly tracking motorists’ movements, DSRC creates a new opportunities for hackers and identity thieves.

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., asked, in a May 2013 hearing whether wireless communications could potentially allow “some 14-year-old in Indonesia” to “shut your car down.”

Considering that the European Union is indeed considering mandating equipment that would let police and other authorities to disable your car by remote control, the senator’s concerns may not be hyperbolic, though civil libertarians might be more concerned about potential abuse by government agents than by hackers in Indonesia.

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NAIAS 2014: TTAC And Jalopnik Explore The Closed Door World Of Regulatory Meetings http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/ttac-regulatory-meeting-nhtsa-naias/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/ttac-regulatory-meeting-nhtsa-naias/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 17:10:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=702162 While the rest of the 5,200+ media-pass holders bounced from one laser light show to another, I and Raphael Orlove ( of Jalopnik) ventured north to cover a very different automotive event. There would be no makeup counter girls, no automaker swag and the coffee came from a vending machines not Italian espresso machine. We […]

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While the rest of the 5,200+ media-pass holders bounced from one laser light show to another, I and Raphael Orlove ( of Jalopnik) ventured north to cover a very different automotive event. There would be no makeup counter girls, no automaker swag and the coffee came from a vending machines not Italian espresso machine. We were headed to an automotive regulatory meeting that was scheduled to take place at the same time as the Acura reveal.

The official title of the meeting was, “The Public Meeting of the U.S. –Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Motor Vehicles Safety Standards Working Group.” The public announcement was posted on January 6, 2014 via Regulation.gov.  In that announcement it stated that to attend the meeting you were required to register 10 days prior to the event. The event took place on January 14 meaning you had to register for the event by January 4, four days before the notice was posted. Time travel?

Thankfully I was able to register and this ‘rule’ didn’t prohibit me or Orlove from attending. We were in.

An American flag waived in front of a large concrete building. The honeycomb-shaped windows looked as if they’d been cut and pasted from any one of the federal buildings in D.C. We made our way through the TSA-like security. Belt, shoes, bags – you know the drill. Security was tight here as the building was home to regional offices for the DEA, DHS, CBP and FBI.

We made our way to the 11th floor, past the Witness Protection Program Office and to a GSA conference room. We were just in time for introductions. We quietly sat in the back of the conference room and when the time came stood up and introduced ourselves.

“I’m Raphael Orlove with Jalopnik.”

“Juan Barnett with Truth About Cars.”

Having trouble hearing the lengthy titles of the attendees (Kash Ram, Director General, Road Safety and Motor Vehicle Regulation Directorate, Transportation Canada), we moved up closer, taking a seat in the front row.

Kash and his U.S. counterpart, Christopher Bonanti, Associate Administrator for Rulemaking, NHTSA, took turns updating the room, a room filled with lobbyists and automaker representatives, on the status of new and ongoing activities from their respective agencies.

The meeting itself was interesting and informative if you’re into the policy side of automotive.

For example, I wasn’t aware that in Canada the Official Languages Act makes alignment of US and Canadian safety standards for “controls and displays” very difficult because of the use of pictograms.

Another topic that came up was the use of immobilizers to get a waiver from the theft prevention standards that requires automakers to VIN-stamp various parts of a vehicle such as large panels, engine blocks, etc. NHTSA is allowed to grant one model line exemption per year for an automaker under 49 CFR Part 543. While the discussion revolved around lining up the performance standards of immobilizers (US has no performance criteria and Canada does), Mr. Bonanti did make it a point to emphasize that if stakeholders wanted to expand that exemption to include more than one model line per year, that stakeholders in the room needed to pursue a legislative change. In other words, if you want this changed, go lobby Congress.

Tires came up during the opening discussion, particularly standards associated with low rolling resistance (LRR) tires and how fuel economy information could be provided to consumers to make them aware of the benefit associated with LRR tires. This could get very tricky, especially from an OEM packing perspective. If automakers are required to breakout LRR MPG numbers on a per vehicle basis, what’s to say it won’t happen with other options?

“I want a rear wing, but the -0.29 MPG is really holding me back.”

On the topic of tires we also learned that the track at NHTSA’s UTQG Test Facility in San Angelo, Texas was destroyed by flooding. Water got under the track and lifted the asphalt making the track unusable.

The speakers got further into bus safety and larger vehicle carrier at which point I started to tune out as I don’t really follow commercial vehicles and Orlove was drafting a very fascinating image of a bus and car colliding, flames and all.

From here things got strange.

During the midday break, Orlove and I hit up the vending machine in search of caffeine. The NHTSA official, Mr. Bonanti, stood next to us coaxing the finest coffee from a 1983 COFFEE EXPRESS machine. He asked, “What organization are you guys from?” We responded, Jalopnik and TruthAboutCars. He wasn’t familiar with the groups. Then Orlove said, “Were with the media.”

Silence.

“Uh, I didn’t know media was here,” said Mr. Bonanti. He asked the nearest person to him, “Did you know media was in the room?” You would have thought we had stumbled into the witness protection office by accident and were tweeting people’s new identities to the public. (I was asked if I was tweeting the meeting. And yes, of course I was tweeting the meeting.)

What are they hiding?

This was a public meeting, but there wasn’t a single person from the public. A part of me thinks that’s how they, the government and ‘stakeholders’, prefer these types of meetings to be held. The announcement was posted days before the event, to include an RVSP date that had passed. It was held in a remote federal building on the same time and day that the automotive media had to cover new vehicle reveals.

Behind closed doors is exactly the opposite of how people like Elon Musk want to handle regulators and for that, people like Karl Brauer of Kelly Blue Book call him a “rookie in the car business.” But are Elon, and Sergio Marchionne, who had a public disagreement with NHTSA on Jeep fires, truly ‘rookies in the car business’? Or are they pioneering something much bigger?

We live in a time when the public can be the media (like me), where automakers speak directly to the public with their data, unafraid of the government, presenting their side of the story for the public to judge.

The government isn’t always right. As people trust government less and less, could we see more brands emerge from the shadows of small federal meeting rooms and take their issues directly to the public bypassing the regulators all together?

You say rookie, I say calculated transparency, a transparency we could all benefit from.

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NHTSA Submits Rear Visibility Rule to White House, May Mandate Backup Cameras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nhtsa-submits-rear-visibility-rule-to-white-house-may-mandate-backup-cameras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nhtsa-submits-rear-visibility-rule-to-white-house-may-mandate-backup-cameras/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 15:34:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691562 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 […]

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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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