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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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BMW Joins Recall Rush

Assortment of popular models targeted.

by on Apr.11, 2014

The 2012 BMW 3-Series is one of the many models targeted by the latest recall.

BMW has become the latest maker to announce a major safety recall, targeting an array of its more popular models due to an issue that underscores why there have been so many large-scale recalls in recent years.

A total of 156,137 luxury cars and so-called Sport Activity Vehicles – BMW’s term for an SUV – are targeted, and the maker blames defective bolts that can cause engine stalling or damage.

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Among the models included in the recall are the BMW 3-Series and X5, two of the maker’s most popular product lines.  Also targeted are the 1-Series, 5-Series and 5-Series Gran Turismo, X3, X6 and Z4 sports car, all sold during the 2010 to 2012 model-years. Also covered is the 2012 6-Series model.  All are equipped with BMW’s inline six-cylinder engine.

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Toyota Recalling 6.4 Mil Vehicles Worldwide

Nearly 30 different models impacted by a variety of problems.

by on Apr.09, 2014

The Toyota Highlander is one of many vehicles covered by the Japanese maker's huge new recall.

In one of the largest announcements in several years of major safety-related news, Toyota Motor Co. is recalling nearly 6.4 million vehicles for a variety of problems worldwide.

Some of the vehicles are actually covered by more than one recall, and the announcement also impacts products sold by two other makers – Subaru and General Motors — that were produced by Toyota. Adding the Subaru Trezia and Pontiac Vibe to the list brings the total number of vehicles involved in the recall to 6.76 million worldwide.

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Toyota says it has no reports of crashes or injuries related to any of the recalls – though it did note two fires linked to one problem, a defective engine starter that can keep a motor running even if the motorist wants to shut the vehicle off.  That is not related to the defective engine switch problem that has led GM to recall more than 2.5 million vehicles since mid-February.

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Despite Pressure from Public, Lawmakers, Are Unsafe Cars Still Sidestepping Recall Process?

GM ignition switch scandal could lead to crackdown.

by on Mar.17, 2014

A Jeep Grand Cherokee fire. The maker long fought a recall - but critics aren't happy with the final settlement.

Things were supposed to change a decade ago.  After an estimated 270 people were killed in rollover accidents involving Ford Explorer SUVs and Firestone tires, Congress passed the so-called TREAD Act.  Short for the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, it was intended to create a new process by which manufacturers had to reveal known safety-related issues – while encouraging motorists to report their own complaints.

But while federal safety regulators and automotive industry officials alike insist the new process is working, there are plenty of skeptics – all the more in the wake of the recent revelations that General Motors may have known for more than a decade that many of its compact cars were equipped with faulty ignition switches that could inadvertently shut the vehicles off and disable their airbag systems – a problem that last month led to the recall of 1.6 million vehicles and which has been linked to at least 12 deaths.

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What some are dubbing “Switch-gate” has already spawned a series of investigations – including hearings on both sides of Capitol Hill, a preliminary Justice Dept. criminal probe, a query by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a new internal investigation at GM itself ordered by the maker’s new CEO Mary Barra.

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Feds Wants Vehicles to “Talk” to One Another in Bid to Cut Crashes

NHTSA announces plan that could improve safety, reduce traffic jams.

by on Feb.03, 2014

A V2V system could signal you when another car has run a red light.

Federal regulators want your car to be able to talk to others on the road in a bid to reduce motor vehicle crashes and to help motorists avoid traffic jams.

After years of study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today said it will begin taking steps that could eventually require all new cars and trucks to be equipped with so-called vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, technology, calling it a “key” to saving lives while also improving traffic flow in major urban areas.

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“Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we’ve already seen with safety belts and air bags,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry.”

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IIHS Names America’s Safest Cars

Unexpected absences as the list shrinks from 130 vehicles to just 39.

by on Dec.19, 2013

The number of vehicles that qualified for this year's picks fell by more than 75%.

The old adage that “safety doesn’t sell” certainly doesn’t apply today.  It has become just as critical a factor in the buying decision for most American motorists as fuel economy.

So, there could be a lot of attention paid to the latest list of America’s safest cars, at least according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A total of 22 vehicles made the trade group’s most prestigious list, those given a Top Safety Pick+ rating, while another 17 got the still significant Top Safety Pick imprimatur.

There were a number of surprises delivered by the IIHS, however, including the absence of the new Toyota Corolla from the list. Only four products from the Japanese maker – and not a single one of its Lexus models – made this year’s safest cars list.  Indeed, while there were a whopping 130 different models that made the cut for 2013, only a total of 39 are on the list this year.

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On the other hand, there were eight models built by Honda and its luxury Acura brand, more than any other manufacturer.

“We’ve made it more difficult for manufacturers this year,” says Adrian Lund, president of the IIHS, which has been awarding Top Safety Picks since 2006, adding the Top Safety Pick+ category in 2012.

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Even Speeders Back Speed Laws, Finds New Survey

The thrill is gone?

by on Dec.16, 2013

A new study finds Americans have a paradoxical attitude about speeding.

While millions of Americans routinely admit to driving above the speed limit, nearly half of all motorists say speeding is a problem and the vast majority – including many chronic speeders – believe “everyone should obey the speed limits because it’s the law, according to a new national survey.

Despite increasing efforts to crack down on speeding, federal data suggest that it remains responsible for as much as a third of the traffic fatalities on roads each year, or nearly 10,000 lives annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has released results of its third “National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior.”

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“The need for speed should never trump the need for safe and responsible driving,” David Strickland, the outgoing NHTSA administrator, said in a statement. “Motorists who drive at excessive speeds put themselves and others at an increased risk of being involved in a crash and possibly of being injured or killed.”

The study, which relied on telephone interviews involving more than 6,000 U.S. households in 2011, found Americans hold a paradoxical attitude on speeding.  It found that a significant percentage of Americans routinely drive at or over the speed limit – something most motorists likely can confirm anecdotally on almost any American freeway.

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Drivers Struggle to Recognize Dashboard Warning Lights

Number of warning signals fine, but meanings are often unclear.

by on Dec.10, 2013

A recent survey of drivers by Insurance.com shows that many have no idea what these symbols mean or what they should do when they see them.

Car designers and engineers often fight for space on the prime piece of real estate in a car or truck: the instrument cluster. However, a recent survey suggests that the space they’re getting isn’t used well.

The Insurance.com study suggests the design effort that goes into designing the lights and signals found on the instrument hasn’t helped motorists and most motorists find the signals confusing and unintelligible.

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The website surveyed 2,000 drivers asking them to identify 10 common dashboard lights. The icons for partially closed doors, air bag problems and child safety lock activation were correctly identified more often than warning lights for tire pressure, brakes, low fuel and engine overheating. (more…)

Feds Push Makers to Speed New Safety Tech into Cars

An era of "zero-collisions."

by on Nov.18, 2013

A prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle negotiates a simulated urban intersection, complete with cross traffic.

After a brief surge last year, federal data show that highway deaths are again on a sharp decline, falling an estimated 4.2% during the first half of this year. And while an ongoing crackdown on drunk driving is one factor for the 40% decline in fatalities over the last four decades, improved vehicle design and advanced safety hardware also are getting much of the credit.

That’s led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to encourage the industry to fast-track new technical advances that many experts now believe could eventually lead to an era of zero fatalities.

 

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“Safety is our top priority and we can achieve remarkable progress in reducing injuries and fatalities in this era of innovation and technology,” proclaimed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is asking for “real solutions that can significantly address safety issues that have plagued this nation for decades,” as part of NHTSA’s new “Significant and Seamless” initiative.

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Chrysler Recalls 1.2 Million Ram Pickups

Maker says steering problems could affect over a third.

by on Nov.11, 2013

The 2008 Dodge Ram Mega Cab is among the various models affected by the latest recall.

In a year marked by some major recalls, Chrysler has announced one of the largest, with 1.2 million of its Ram pickups subject to a new service action due to front-end problems that could lead to a loss of steering control.

The latest announcement actually combines three separate recalls for steering-related issues.  Chrysler says, however, that while it wants to inspect more than a million heavy-duty Ram trucks and chassis cab models, it expects that only a little more than a third will actually need to undergo repairs.

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Nonetheless, the problem is potentially serious and Chrysler says it knows of six crashes and two injuries involving Ram pickups and another crash – with no reported injuries – involving the other models.

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