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Archive for August, 2010

Mazda Recalls More than 200,000 3 and 5 Models

Electric power steering fails without warning. Possible cover-up?

by on Aug.30, 2010

Different treatment for a different Japanese car company or has NHTSA made its point?

Mazda is recalling 215,000 2007-2009 Mazda3 and Mazda5 vehicles made from 2 April 2007 through 30 November 2008. These vehicles may have a safety defect where a sudden loss of power steering assist could occur while driving.

If power steering is lost without warning, the driver’s ability to maneuver is restricted, increasing the risk of an accident.

The recall on the Japanese-made vehicles raises questions about the policies of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which fined Toyota a record $16.4 million for its failure to tell safety regulators about a safety defect in a timely matter.


In the Mazda case, the defect goes back to March of 2008 with a customer complaint in the Japanese market, which prompted a Mazda investigation in July of 2008. By the summer of 2009, Mazda concluded that rust was forming on the inside of a high-pressure power steering line, and it issued a technical service bulletin to dealers – but only in Japan.


Ford Recalls 575,000 Windstar Minivans for Rust

Rear axles of vehicles in snowbelt states may corrode.

by on Aug.30, 2010

Ford is recalling 1998-2003 Windstar minivans in snowbelt states because the rear axles may corrode.

Ford is recalling 575,000 minivans from model years 1998-2003 to fix rear axle shafts that can weaken because of corrosion, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The voluntary recall affects 463,000 Windstar minivans in the U.S. with the balance in Canada. The vehicles were built between Sept. 1, 1997, and Feb. 28, 2003.

Recall news!

Corrosion can cause cracks in the axle, which can break, affecting vehicle handling.

The recall is for vehicles currently registered or originally sold in Connecticut, Delaware Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.


GM, Firefighters Teach First Responders EV Safety

Fire chiefs conference includes 3-hour Chevy Volt demo.

by on Aug.27, 2010

GM and the National Fire Protection Association are teaming up to develop safety programs for first responders to deal with electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles are coming, so first responders need to learn about them so they don’t get hurt and can quickly remove occupants from one after an accident.

With that in mind the National Fire Protection Association announced a joint effort with General Motors to train first responders at the scene of a crash involving an electric vehicle.

The announcement was made Thursday at the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Fire-Rescue International Conference in Chicago where Chevrolet and OnStar demonstrated safety techniques on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt – an electric vehicle with “extended-range” capability that will be on sale in limited numbers late this year.

Red Hot!

The Volt and the pure electric Nissan Leaf will be the most visible electric vehicles to appear on the market in the next few years, but several automakers are planning to produce more EVs.

Social Networking Doubles with the 50-plus Set

Broad implications for auto marketing and communications.

by on Aug.27, 2010

Communications will never be the same. The question is what will be significantly different?

We all know that social media use has grown dramatically among younger age groups. However, older users have been especially active during the past year embracing the new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010, according to the latest report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among internet users ages 50‐64 grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%. During the same period, use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%–from 13% to 26%. By comparison, social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by 13%—from 76% to 86%.

The study poses challenges to automotive marketing and communications departments, which historically have relied on mass market advertising and specialist, highly pampered automotive media – some of whom don’t even own a car, relying on car company handouts instead – to raise awareness and purchase consideration of  new vehicles, as well as bolster company reputations. Now, word of mouth via e-mails and electronic posts can praise or pan a new or old model – and trash a company – outside of the once considerable influence of auto companies with traditional media.

“Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,” explains Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist at Pew.


Pontiacs Ensnared in Toyota’s 15th Recall of Year

Almost 200,000 of the NUMMI built Pontiac Vibes are affected.

by on Aug.27, 2010

Ah the joys of a joint-venture car. How long will owners have to wait for parts?

Toyota Motor Co. announced a safety recall Thursday for 1.13 million Toyota Corolla and Matrix models from the 2005-2008 model years. It was the beleaguered company’s 15th recall of the year. Also included in the recall, but not the release, are 199,163 Pontiac Vibe models from same model years because of a faulty powertrain control.

During the past year, Toyota consistently denied that there was a stalling problem with the vehicles, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened up a more detailed investigation into the problem last  week as consumer complaints continued to appear.

NHTSA, of course, is under heavy criticism for dismissing complaints about Toyota safety matters, and two former Toyota employees were working at the safety agency on Toyota matters while unintended acceleration and floor mat entrapment complaints were dismissed.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Toyota in the U.S. does not have the authority to recall vehicles, only the parent company in Japan can, as was revealed during harshly critical U.S. Congressional hearings on Toyota quality and safety matters.

Recalls and Analysis!

The 2-wheel-drive Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix are sister vehicles built between April 2004 and January 2008 at the former New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. joint venture in California between GM and Toyota. The vehicles were designed and engineered by Toyota.  Toyota closed the unionized plant in its largest U.S. market this past April in favor of moving production to a new non-union plant in Alabama, which will build the next generation 2012 Corolla – the world’s most popular nameplate since surpassing the previous tile holder, the Volkswagen Beetle.


Update: BMW’s Jack Pitney Killed In Farm Accident

Marketing exec and rising star dead at 47.

by on Aug.27, 2010

Jack Pitney, shown here with the new BMW 5-Series, was killed in a freak accident on his farm.

BMW executive Jack Pitney, considered one of the company’s rising stars, has been killed in a freak accident on his farm outside New York City.

A tractor the BMW executive was driving flipped while Pitney was trying to remove a tree stump, according to a police report.

Just 47, Pitney was given much of the credit for helping the German maker craft the successful U.S. launch of the Mini brand.  He was about to be reassigned from his post as BMW’s chief marketing officer to a regional post, raising questions about the direction his career was taking, but inside sources contend the move was meant to broaden Pitney’s skill set, and not as a demotion, as some initial reports had suggested.

Breaking News!

Indeed, the upcoming appointment as Eastern Regional Manager, set to go into effect on Sept. 1st, was precisely the sort of non-traditional move Pitney had been known to make during his brief but impactful career.


“Shelby” Opens Las Vegas Speed Shop

Brand extension of the name of a legendary racer.

by on Aug.27, 2010

"We can install headers, cams, heads, cold air intakes, superchargers..."

Shelby American Inc. has opened a new Speed Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dubbed the Shelby American Motorsports Speed Shop, the facility is on the grounds of Shelby American headquarters and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In a statement, the company said the shop was designed to enhance the performance and styling of a street or track car by upgrading engine, suspension and body styling components.

“While we specialize in all American high performance cars, our experienced team can tune and work on just about everything,” said John Luft, president of Shelby.

Notably absent from the promotional piece was any quote from Carroll Shelby, who after a long and distinguished career has licensed his name to a variety of businesses including Shelby American (,which manufactures and markets performance vehicles and related products under his name.


Ford installs sync software via Wi-Fi

First automaker to install infotainment software wirelessly?

by on Aug.26, 2010

The 2011 Ford Edge will use Wi-Fi technology to wirelessly download Sync software.

It’s becoming a wireless world, so why not the vehicle assembly line as well.

Ford says it is the first automaker to use Wi-Fi to send software to vehicles along an assembly line. The automaker is sending infotainment software to Wi-Fi-enabled MYFord Touch-equipped vehicles.

Ford installed the Wi-Fi equipment at its Oakville, Ontario, plant where it builds the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, both of which were refreshed for 2011. Next up for Wi-Fi updates will be the upcoming Ford Explorer, built in Chicago, and then plants that build the Focus around the world.

Wi-Fi capability eliminates the need for building, stocking multiple SYNC hardware modules, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and saving cost.

Your Global Auto News Source!

“Using wireless software installation via Wi-Fi, we can stock just one type of SYNC module powering MyFord Touch and loaded with a basic software package,” explained Sukhwinder Wadhwa, SYNC global platform manager. “We eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made – this system really boosts quality control.”

But turning a factory into a Wi-Fi hot spot was not easy.

Toyota Recalls a Million Corolla and Matrix Models

Add another million or so to the growing Toyota defect list.

by on Aug.26, 2010

More than a million Corollas in the U.S. and an unknown amount globally are recalled.

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today announced that it will conduct a voluntary safety recall involving approximately 1.13 million 2005-2008 Model Year Toyota Corolla and Corolla Matrix vehicles sold in North America.

Defective engine control modules are the latest safety defect at the beleaguered Japanese company.

On vehicles equipped with the 1ZZ-FE engine and two-wheel drive, a crack may develop at solder points or on the electronic component used to protect circuits against excessive voltage (varistor) on the ECM’s circuit board.

In most but not all cases, Toyota says if a crack occurs the check engine may illuminate, harsh shifting could result, or the engine may not start. In some instances, if cracking occurs on particular solder points or varistors, the engine could stop while the vehicle is being driven.


There are three unconfirmed accidents alleged to be related to this defect, one of which reported a minor injury.

As part of the recall, the ECM on involved vehicles will be replaced at no charge to the owner as is required by U.S. regulations.


Milestones: Ford Saarlouis Builds 12 Millionth Car

Daily production is currently 1,920 units. New Focus coming.

by on Aug.26, 2010

Ford Saarlouis plant's 12 millionth vehicle - a current generation Ford Focus

Ford’s Saarlouis Plant in south-west Germany celebrated building its 12 millionth vehicle today – a white Ford Focus five-door model which will be delivered to a Saarlouis employee.

Opened by Henry Ford II on June 11, 1970, the Saarlouis Plant has built some of the highest volume vehicles in Ford of Europe’s history. These include Ford Capri, produced at the plant from 1971 and 1975; the Ford Fiesta, 1976 to 1980; the Ford Orion, 1983 to 1993; the Ford C-Max since 2003; and the Ford Kuga from 2008).

Saarlouis is arguably best-known as the home of the Ford Escort, 1970 to 1998, and, since 1998, the Ford Focus when the badly outdated Escort was finally replaced after more than a decade of neglect.