By on April 16, 2011

Some of Nissan’s Leaf cars were beset by the opposite of the alleged sudden unintended acceleration:  Sudden unintended arrest. Once started and turned off, the Leafs refused to start again. Which of course would turn the Leaf into a PR embarrassment: Who wants the first serious mass market EV to be a non-starter? After having received complaints both in Japan and the U.S., Nissan decided to do something about it.

According to The Nikkei [sub] “all 8,000 or so of the Leafs built in Japan and the U.S. will be covered by the repair service, though only a ‘very small proportion’ of the vehicles have been affected by the glitch.”

The fix will be fixed in a flash, literally: The car computer will be reprogrammed. And then it’s ready to go. The fallout of the little trouble is that we know how many Leafs have been sold by now. About 8,000. From what we hear there had been supply problems before the March 11 tsunami, and it is imaginable that at the moment, Nissan has more pressing problems than hunting down batteries.

 

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34 Comments on “Computer Glitch Turns Nissan Leaf Into Non-Starter...”


  • avatar
    Tosh

    Lesson: Don’t buy the first model year of any new model from any manufacturer (unless you can absorb a total loss).

    • 0 avatar
      Bluliner

      Sounds more like a technology issue than a mechanical one. Remember when Windows 7 first came out? Or the iPhone, some digital cameras, video games, or anything else that has a lot of new computer ‘tech’ in it? They don’t break down per se, they crash.
       
      No firmware or program is 100% bug free. So when you’re buying a new car and all the new technology associated with it, you’re taking on both mechanical and technology risks. Even better, or worse depending on if you’re a techie, is the risk of how quickly this technology become obsolete?
       
      I wonder if cars will be marketed like cell phones. I mean, who wants 3G when you can have 4G? A bigger number is always better, right? What the hell is a 4G anyway?

      • 0 avatar
        Tosh

        I suppose you want me to be grateful to those early adopters who enjoy the excitement and risk of wading into the unknown? Alright, thank you guinea pig! I’ll be just a few years behind you. (I use XP when I am forced to….)

      • 0 avatar
        monomille

        4th Generation

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Windows 7? I think you might mean Vista. Windows 7 has been pretty reliable from all I’ve read and experienced myself.
         
        But the first year thing is very good advice. That’s why there’s no way I’d buy a 2012 Beetle in September 2011. I imagine they’ll make the car for a few years, so what’s the big hurry unless you’re really desperate to be first on the block with a brand new model?

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      > unless you can absorb a total loss

      Don’t the usual consumer-protection (lemon) laws apply? Usually, if a car spends more than some number (%) of days in the shop, the purchaser can require that the manufacturer buy it back. A hassle, but far from a total loss?

    • 0 avatar
      CraigSu

      I’ve had mixed results when dealing with 1st gen cars.  I bought the 1st gen Honda CR-X Si and had a constant thumping sound in the rear suspension between 35-45 MPH.  The dealer couldn’t figure it out, even after many phone calls to the Honda techs in California.  They finally decided they wouldn’t work on it anymore, which didn’t exactly endear me to that dealer.  Traded it in on a 1st gen Acura Integra 5-door.  Drove it for 11 years and it was one of the most reliable vehicles I’ve ever owned.
       
      The software analogy others have presented is apt.  Way back when I worked for Microsoft (pre-XP) the general wisdom was that you didn’t switch to a new operating system until the first Service Pack was released, especially if you were a corporation.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      4G is LTE or WiMax, depending on carrier, or HSPA+ if you are talking about T-Mobile (but a lot of people really consider that 3.5G) but the long and short of it is that regardless of the technology behind it, it’s faster data speeds and (eventually) packet switching based voice as well as data.  Of course, there are a couple different versions of the 4G spec floating around and various phones that say they are 4G hold themselves to various versions of the ‘standard’, and I don’t believe the phones out there calling themselves 4G do all IP based voice calls yet, so, it’s also just a lot of marketing speak.
       
      Regarding cars, and in this case in particular, the software angle is more than an analogy, it’s the actual cause of the problem.
       
      As automobile systems continue to evolve to be more and more computer controlled I have a feeling we will see more of these software glitch style recalls.  On the downside, adding millions of lines of code to what used to be a purely mechanical way of doing things does up the chance for glitches to pop up, but on the other hand, software issues are relatively cheap and easy to fix compared to mechanical design flaws.
       
      In this case, the car is obviously nowhere near a total loss, it just needs a firmware upgrade.
       
      Perhaps automakers should offer a beta testing program.  I’d be interested in signing up for say, a half price short term lease on a new car in exchange for filling out bug reports (assuming of course it also came with free service for any issues found).

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’ve had several 1st-year cars that were fine.  Actually, it was the 1st year of design refreshes I had trouble with.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Will 8,000 cars really be fixed with a computer reflash?  

    I might be completely wrong on the facts, and if so somebody will correct me.   But perusing the auto forums it seems that many ECM reflashes are just a stalling tactic (pardon the pun) while the technicians try to figure out the real problem.

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      In hazard or damage scenarios, the ECM will fail-safe by refusing to start. The ECM may be fooled into doing this inappropriately due to a false-positive indication from one of its sensing systems. That check is either being bypassed or supplemented. A hardware fix may never be needed to meet reliability & safety targets.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Typical media reaction to a Japanese car problem. Not to worry folks just a small glitch, those friendly Nissan dealers will be glad to repair it

    If it was the Volt it would be headline news. I can seeit now… The UAW built Volt is a complete failure Motorist left stranded in dangerous places, thousand  recalled. GM is unavailable for comment.

    • 0 avatar
      thetaII

      Nah, the Volt only catches on fire and burns down garages:
      http://www.wfsb.com/news/27541598/detail.html

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve wondered when the first Volt was going to burn to the ground! It’s really just a matter of time.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Rob……Read that link, and tell me where it states the Volt caused the fire? They didn’t rule out the Volt. How about oily rags,or house wiring that was too outdated to acomadate the battery charger.

         How about some domestic vehicle/UAW hater that thought they could justify thier hate by burning some dudes garage down?

        Just saying.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure mikey… blame the rags. (I won’t dignify your other “theory” with a response.) How about the electric-converted Suzuki that was also in the garage? The one converted to battery power “years” ago, according to Autoblog, and has presumably given many years of fire-free service?

        Though you’re technically correct in saying the cause hasn’t been determined… somehow I still tend to trust the homebuilt here, over a UAW-assembled remedial science project.

        In any case, one of the first things investigators will look at is what was the most recent change or addition to the scene, prior to the fire. That would be the Volt.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Rob….To be honest, I expected better from you.  I’m far from a legal expert. The facts, are the facts. The garage burned,with a Chevy volt in it…..end of story.

        As far as the rest of my comment……There ain’t no shortage of crazies out there.

        Dude……Are you having a bad day? Some of the top engineers in the world have been sweating that car for years.

      • 0 avatar

        LOL… I guess my blood is boiling because taxes are due this weekend. I’ll play nice. Still, I’m really curious to know what the cause is proven to be.

        And mikey… GM hasn’t gotten much of a return from its “top engineers” in the past. Just sayin’.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        And the Volt is just an extremely overpriced hybrid with sales so lousy that GE has committed to buy half the production AND receive something like $375,000,000 in tax credits.

        GE was the largest recipient of government loan guarantees under the “bank” bailouts according to the WP. One hand washes the other. Crony crapitalism at its worst.

        Crony Capitalism Digest: General Electric to Purchase Immense Fleet of Chevy Volts That Aren’t Marketable in the Real World
        http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2011/03/crony-capitalism-digest-general.html

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      Seriously Rob, pretty lame there.  There was a fire in the garage with lots of stuff in it.  House is over 40 years old.  They have not identified what started the fire, but sure, you can blame the Volt.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @ Rob…..Oh yeah, for sure this will be investigated, and then investigated again. The good news is nobody got hurt.

      • 0 avatar

        The good news is nobody got hurt.

        On that we agree, of course. Good to see even the family pet came out unscathed.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        One, the Volt is hardly a “remedial science project”…It is a damn impressive piece of engineering.  Perhaps it will fail in the marketplace, but even if it does, that does nothing to reduce the engineering excellence.  And the fact that the engine can pitch in and drive the wheels is a good thing.  Using that fact to degrade the car as an overpriced hybrid is unfair.  it makes the car much better than if it could only be powered by the motor-generator.
         
        GM will have plenty of cash to buy Volts.  It gets to pay zero in income tax, yet I get hosed with the f-in AMT.  Life is so damn unfair is sucks. And, yes it is good that the family pet is fine. Happiness is a Golden Retriever…or fill in whatever you love…

  • avatar
    Syke

    OK, we’ve got a car that’s totally different from anything else on the market (I’m talking major manufacturers here), so I’d expect a glitch here or there.  Anyone who thinks that this level of technology, heavily software based, will be perfect from day one is absolutely unrealistic.  After all, two days ago, I got 15 updates to my XP system at work.  And that’s been out how long now?  And is supposedly obsolete by two generations?

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      The tin foil hat wearer in my thinks that some/all of those updates are part of the planned obsolescence for XP. I’ve noticed on several occasions that a new install of XP runs quicker than before all the updates are install, all other things being equal (fresh install with no other software installed). Another way to look at it is there are computers that came out with XP installed when it was new that had no problem running it then but cannot run it now.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Hopefully it is only a software issue, but I would think this would have been caught in testing.  I wonder why it wasn’t, if there is some sort of circumstance that wasn’t tested that is causing this.

  • avatar
    siuol11.2

    Really Husky, a piece of engineering excellence? What exactly is it about being three years late to market with me-too tech that makes the Volt so great?

    • 0 avatar

      The concept was announced in Jan ’07 and on sale in late ’10. Normal lead time on a car is 3 years. Considering the new systems that needed to be engineered, the Volt came in on time.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Technically, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid. So, that would put them on track or slightly ahead of everyone else. I think they knew they were behind on hybrids and figured that by the time they got anything to market, the competition would be shipping plug-ins. So, that’s what they built.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Rob….To be honest, I expected better from you. ”

    Really? Why would you expect any better from a troll like Finfrock. That’s like going over to the “Is Ford…Underperforming” story and telling Z71 Silvy your disappointed he didin’t have anything intelligent to offer in one of his posts. Both are like 2 peas in a pod, probably separated at birth……LOL 

    1500 Volts out in the real world and the one that’s involved in a garage fire belongs to someone who likes to play with electricty and is siting next to his homemade electric car. You’d have to be pretty thick and/or a troll to think that is nothing more than a coincidence.

    While I like the Leaf and am glad Nissan built it, there is no denying it was somewhat rushed to the market. It is not surpising that there have been a few software glitches.

    • 0 avatar

      Carlson, Carlson… you may notice in articles about the Volt fire (had you bothered to read them) that the “homemade electric car” had provided “years” of fire-free service. Only after the Volt came in did the garage catch fire.
       
      Is that damning evidence? No. But it is a bit more than coincidence.
       
      Maybe mikey’s right, and some oily rags spontaneously combusted. Or, perhaps the home’s electrical system wasn’t up to the Volt’s power requirements… and the GM-designed charging system, ostensibly designed to prevent such overload conditions (on both the car side and the charging side) failed.
       
      Hmmm…

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Do you have evidence to suggest that it was a bit more than a coincidence?  If not, than you don’t know if it was or wasn’t.  Do go around saying something speculative when you don’t have the facts of the case.  There could have been many other changes that happened in that garage after the Volt got there.  It could be that the wiring in the garage was too old and couldn’t handle the current.  There are many fires that start from electrical problems.  In a 40 year old house, I am not surprised if that is what would have caused this.

      • 0 avatar

        Steve-O, I never said this wasn’t speculation… just that the facts of the case, as presented so far, do not clear the Volt of blame in causing this fire as readily as the GM fanboiz would like to believe.

      • 0 avatar

        From the Hartford Courant: “A fire apparently reignited inside the battery of a new Chevrolet Volt car early Monday, less than five days after the Volt, an electric hybrid, was involved in a blaze that destroyed a Barkhamsted garage where it had been plugged in for recharging…”

        AHEM…

        Most curious how the damn thing can’t seem to stop catching on fire, no?

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