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Honda to “Campaign” Bad Odyssey Liftgate Struts

Will not recall defective struts in a dispute with NHTSA.

by on Mar.01, 2010

Honda disputed NHTSA assertions, calling it a product upgrade.

American Honda Motor Company is conducting what it calls a “safety improvement campaign” involving model year 2005 Odyssey touring vehicles equipped with the power-operated rear liftgate, according to documents released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

About 22,000 vehicles are affected where liftgate gas struts may fail and not hold the liftgate completely open.

People with knowledge of the matter said that if the strut fails, the liftgate will only fall three inches before the electric motor catches  it. Only a few minor injuries have been reported.

In a memo to NHTSA last month, Honda said that during an engineering investigation by NHTSA that it had been unable to reach agreement “on certain  aspects of this matter, but recognizes the inconvenience it may cause customers,” leading me to conclude that NHTSA feels that that this is a safety related defect.

Honda is characterizing it instead as a product upgrade; mirroring an argument that Chrysler used to prevent the recall of hundreds of thousands of  2005-2006 Dodge Caravan, Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Town & Country Vehicles for defective airbag sensors. (Click Here.)

In the Chrysler service action, an internal document from NHTSA said that it does not agree with Chrysler’s plan, but also says, “in the interest of remedying the affected vehicles expeditiously and to avoid a protracted dispute, Chrysler is implementing steps to replace the front crash sensors.”

Presumably, NHTSA is making a similar judgment call in this Honda case; one that allows repairs on a limited number of vehicles to proceed without it ordering a recall  – a remedy which could  require lengthy legal action.  NHTSA of course can move forward with a recall in the future if it wants to and the investigation remains open. (more…)