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VW Adds 151,000 Vehicles to Year’s Surging Recall Tally

German maker targets stalling Tiguan SUVs.

by on Aug.11, 2014

VW's Tiguan model could suffer unexpected stalling.

This year’s record run-up in safety-related recalls is showing no sign of abatement, Volkswagen the latest to announce a six-figure service action, the German maker targeting 151,000 of its Tiguan SUVs due a stalling problem.

The announcement came just days after General Motors announced yet another batch of recalls covering an assortment of issues including a faulty ignition switch.

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All told, the auto industry has now recalled more than 40 million vehicles since January 1, a more than 30% increase over the previous record of 31.4 million vehicles set during 2004. And industry analysts warn that at the ongoing pace, the numbers could grow substantially before the end of this year.

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All But One of a Dozen Small Cars Fall Short in Crash Test

Mini Countryman nabs a “good” rating from IIHS.

by on Jul.30, 2014

The 2014 Mini Countryman was the only vehicle to earn a "good" rating in the latest IIHS small car crash tests.

For those worried about the safety of today’s small cars, the latest round of crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety didn’t provide much good news.

Out of an even dozen vehicles included in the test, only the Mini Countryman earned a “good” rating. And among the plug-based vehicles included in the tests for the first time, only the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid managed to eke out an “acceptable” rating – while also earning a Top Safety Pick+ award.

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“The Mini Cooper Countryman gave a solid performance,” says Joe Nolan, the Institute’s senior vice president for vehicle research. “The Countryman’s safety cage held up reasonably well. The safety belts and airbags worked together to control the test dummy’s movement, and injury measures indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a real-world crash this severe.”

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GM Rolls Out Another Six Recalls for 717,000 Vehicles

Maker's recall woes drag on.

by on Jul.23, 2014

The Chevy Camaro is one of the many vehicles targeted by the six new GM recalls.

After a brief reprieve – and hints that the worst of its safety problems had ended – General Motors has announced another six recalls collectively covering more than 700,000 cars, trucks and crossovers.

The latest move brings to more than 26 million the total number of vehicles GM has recalled since the beginning of the year. And when added to the service actions announced by competitors as varied as Ford, BMW and Toyota, the industry overall is fast approaching the 45 million mark, well surpassing the previous record, set in 2004, when 34.1 million vehicles were called back for safety problems.

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GM officials tried to put a positive spin on the latest action, global safety czar Jeff Boyer asserting that this goes to “signify how we’ve enhanced our approach to safety.”

But the seven new recalls also come as something of a setback for a company whose reputation had already taken a hammering during the first half of the year. By late June, GM officials had been dropping strong hints that they had largely addressed all the company’s outstanding safety problems.

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3D System Helps Honda Accurately Simulate Crash Tests

Virtual crashes can be run “at the push of a button.”

by on Jun.25, 2014

A life-like, 3D Honda crash simulation.

There was a time when an automaker might have to build dozens of costly prototypes just to crash them in an effort to meet federal safety standards. These days, most of the work is done by computer simulation. But the challenge is to ensure that what goes on in the virtual world accurately reflects what would happen not only in a physical crash test but in the real world.

Honda has turned to a new 3D software system that promises to make crash simulations more realistic while saving both time and money in the process of developing new vehicles.

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“With this technology, we have gained the potential to improve the quality of decision making and reduce the time required for finalizing a vehicle design by greatly increasing the ease of communicating and understanding the results of a crash test simulation,” explained Eric DeHoff, the technical leader for computer aided engineering, in the Crash Safety Group of Honda R&D Americas, Inc.

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No Longer in the U.S. Market, Suzuki Still Facing Recall

Potential fire risk in vehicles produced for Japanese maker by GM.

by on May.23, 2014

The 2008 Suzuki Reno is one of two of the maker's models covered by the new recall.

It’s been gone from the U.S. market for two years but Suzuki is still facing the safety-related callback of 184,000 vehicles, the latest maker tagged by what has been dubbed the automotive recall crisis.

The Japanese maker’s Forenza and Reno models could experience fires as a result of problems with defective lighting modules. The problem is actually linked to a recall announced this week by General Motors which built the Forenza and Reno models for Suzuki.

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The problem is the result of excess heat generated by the two vehicles’ headlamp and daytime running light modules. That could melt some of the lighting components and lead to a possible fire. The recall covers Suzuki Forenza models produced between 2004 and 2008, and 2005 to 2008 Reno models.

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Is GM Reviving Seatbelt Interlock?

GM testing a modern take on a once-hated technology.

by on May.22, 2014

GM will offer the Belt Assurance System as an option available only to fleets for 2015.

It has long been viewed as an example of government regulatory excess, as well as technology gone wrong. But four decades after the seatbelt interlock was abandoned amidst a flurry of consumer complaints, is General Motors about to bring it back to life?

The answer is “yes, sort of.” The Detroit automaker plans to test the updated technology – which it calls the Belt Assurance System – on a handful of fleets purchasing a select number of 2015 models. Beyond that, GM just might make the interlock a more widely available option, though there is no indication it would become standard-issue, or part of any revived government mandate.

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The original seatbelt interlock was one of the first advanced safety devices ordered into production by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And unlike now, when even modest new systems typically come to market only after years of testing and discussion, the federal agency gave automakers barely six months warning before requiring interlocks on all 1974-model cars.

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GM Announces 5 More Recalls Covering 2.7 Mil Vehicles

Maker will take $200 mil hit to Q2 earnings.

by on May.15, 2014

A 2008 Saturn Aura, one of 2.4 million vehicles covered by the largest of the new GM recalls.

After recalling more than 7 million vehicles during the first three months of the year, it seems that GM’s safety woes are far from over, the maker today announcing five separate new service actions covering another 2.7 million passenger cars and light trucks.

The latest batch of recalls includes the 140,000 Chevrolet Malibus TheDetroitBureau.com reported on overnight, but also includes a wide range of recent and older models, from the 2005 Pontiac G6 to the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. Problems range from faulty taillights to tie-rod defects that could cause a loss of control and possible crash.

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“We have redoubled our efforts to expedite and resolve current (safety) reviews in process and also have identified and analyzed recent vehicle issues which require action,” said Jeff Boyer, the recently appointed GM global vehicle safety czar. “These are examples of our focus to surface issues quickly and promptly take necessary actions in the best interest of our customers.”

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Ford, Chrysler Recall 1.5 Million Vehicles

GM also orders another – small – recall.

by on May.10, 2014

Ford's Escape has faced a number of recalls since it was redesigned two years ago.

In the wake of General Motors’ controversial recall of 2.6 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches it appears automakers are being far more sensitive to potential safety problems – and Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group are the latest to announce recalls that collectively total about 1.5 million vehicles.

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GM is also adding to its expanding recall count – which reached a total of 7 million vehicles during the first quarter alone. It has now added another 9,000 midsize sedans to the list.

This week’s big safety news comes from the other members of Detroit’s Big Three, however.

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No Escape: California Family Sues BMW After Teen Dies in Locked Car

by on May.09, 2014

14-year-old Graciela Martinez died after being locked inside a car on a hot day.

The family of a 14-year-old Central California girl is suing BMW North America and a local school district over the teenager’s heat stroke death inside a locked vehicle from which there was allegedly no escape.

While an average of 38 children left alone in cars die from heat each year in the U.S., deaths of older children or teenagers are exceedingly rare. A database assembled by the nonprofit Kids and Cars revealed only one other case – more than a decade ago – in which a teenager 14 or older died of heat in a locked vehicle.

According to the lawsuit filed this week in Madera County Superior Court, which seeks unspecified damages, Graciela Martinez was driven to school, on Sept. 11, 2013, in the family’s 1997 BMW 328i four-door sedan by her older brother, Oscar.

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After arriving at the Madera High School in Madera, about 20 miles northwest of Fresno, and parking in the rear of the parking lot at about 6:40 a.m., Oscar and his twin sister, Patricia, exited the car, leaving Graciela inside so she could get some extra sleep before her first class at 7:40 a.m., it said.

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What’s Behind the Recall Frenzy?

by on Apr.11, 2014

BMW today increased its recall count for an engine bolt problem to nearly 500,000 vehicles.

Are the cars on our highways getting more dangerous?  That might be a logical assumption considering the rapid rise in recalls over the last five years.  In 2013, a total of 22 million vehicles were involved in recalls in the U.S. alone, up about 20% from the previous year, according to federal data, and the pace is only accelerating.

Since the beginning of the year, General Motors alone has issued recall notices for approximately 6.3 million vehicles – about 40% of those due to faulty ignition switches linked to at least 31 crashes and 13 fatalities.  On Wednesday, Toyota announced it was recalling 6.4 million of its own vehicles – 6.7 million if you include products it also assembled for other manufacturers.

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While not all of those Toyota products were sold in the States, preliminary data suggest about 11 million cars, trucks and crossovers have been covered by U.S. recalls during just the first 14 weeks of this year, roughly half as many as during all of 2013. And over the past year, it was hard to find a single maker not on the list, large or small, from mainstream brands like Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen, to that most exclusive of marques, Rolls-Royce.

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