Articles Posted in Defective Vehicles

Recall Is Largest, Most Fraudulent in History

The airbag was considered one of the most effective auto safety advances in auto manufacturing history. But over 15 years ago, they began exploding without warning, killing at least six people and seriously injuring at least 139 others. Takata, the company that produced most of them, denied it was at fault.

But pressured by over 100 lawsuits, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), fines, and loss of revenue, Takata admitted its airbags were dangerously defective yesterday. It also agreed to recall another 17 million vehicles. This brings the total number to a shocking 34 million — one out of seven of the vehicles on U.S. roads. Takata still effectively denies that it was at fault. 

This is the largest recall in automotive history, surpassing even the G.M.ignition switch debacle. Both companies knew about their defective products for many years and engaged in massive fraud which endangered drivers all over the world. I’ve blogged about these corporate cover-ups and am glad that the public will be better protected.

Takata Aware of the Dangers Since 2000

When there is an impact, gas inside a canister is ignited which rapidly inflates the airbag. Takata’s airbags contained an ammonium nitrate propellant that is commonly used in fertilizer — think back to what happened to the town of West two years ago when it blew up.  But it is cheaper to use than the previously used propellant based on tetrazole. Unfortunately, it is highly risk because it is sensive to moisture, obviously a problem in humid states like Texas. The canister can quickly heat up, then violently explodes.  This sends sharp metal fragments flying into the interior of the vehicle like shrapnel. The shards of metal can lacerate, blind, or even kill the driver and front seat passenger. Other drivers on the road are obviously at risk if a driver goes out of control. It’s a nightmare waiting to happen.

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Deadliest Auto Defect in American History

General Motors is a contender for causing one of the deadliest vehicle defects in history. The number of deaths tied to the ignition switch defect has just reached 100 and is likely to climb much higher. The reality far exceeds G.M.’s strong assertions last year that only 13 people were killed in wrecks involving its ignition switch.

Cover Up, Then Denial

In 2012, the family of a G.M. crash victim hired Mark Hood to investigate the cause of the fatal accident. What the engineer discovered turned the automotive world upside down and opened the door to justice for thousands of victims and their families. During the course of his investigation, he compared the victim’s ignition switch to one he purchased from a local dealership for $30 and slowly unraveled the truth. He not only discovered the problem with the ignition switch, but that the company had taken deliberate steps to cover up the problem.

Evidence indicates that G.M. knew about the defect since at least 2006 or 2007. And yet, the car manufacturer allowed people to drive around in these dangerous vehicles for a decade. 

Even after the company was caught, their reaction was slow in getting defective cars off the streets. Only upon pressure from Congress did G.M. step up recall efforts. At that time, lawmakers were incensed that 13 people had been killed, having no idea that these deaths represented just a drop in the bucket. G.M. lawyers and executives continued to deny the defect caused more deaths. 

4,300 Death and Injury Claims Filed Against G.M.

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Huge Win for Corporate Negligence; Major Loss for Accident Victims’ Rights

It is clear that General Motors not only knew about its defective ignition switches for more than a decade, but took great pains to hide the problem. As a result, at least 84 people died and dozens were severely injured as a result of the mega corporation’s despicable actions. To save a few bucks, G.M. cost many of its customers their lives and countless enormous medical bills, lost wages, and joften life-changing injuries.

Yesterday afternoon, G.M. won the right to ignore its victims fight for justice. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York ruled that G.M. is shielded from lawsuits arising from accidents that occurred prior to July 10, 2009. In addition, G.M. is relieved from most lawsuits seeking economic damages related to the defective G.M. automobiles. The ruling covers the bulk of the defects.

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Response to High Number of Recalls in 2014

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill that allows whistleblowers who report auto safety hazards to receive a percentage of fines and judgments against the offending companies.

The law was introduced in response to the record numbers of recalls in 2014, many of which occurred only after manufacturers were forced to do so. General Motors knew of its faulty ignition switch for more than a decade before issuing its first recall. In the meantime, hundreds of accidents in G.M. vehicles resulted in unnecessary deaths and injuries. In addition, Takata was well aware that shards of metal could shoot into the passenger compartment during airbag deployment, yet did nothing to rectify the problem until dozens of people were killed and maimed. Both companies took pains to hide the defects to avoid financial liability.

The proposed whistleblower legislation is designed to encourage individuals with knowledge about safety violations to step forward.

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Court Considers Whether 2009 Bankruptcy Relieves Automaker of its Liability 

In 2009, a drowning General Motors was thrown a lifeline by the bankruptcy court. An expedited bankruptcy allowed the struggling company to rid itself of debt and start fresh on the solid ground that a controversial loan of $49 billion of taxpayer money provided.

Now G.M. is hoping to turn that life-preserver into easy sailing. The automaker was back in bankruptcy court last Tuesday asking a judge to consider whether provisions of the bankruptcy agreement relieved the “new G.M.” of liability on vehicles manufactured pre-bankruptcy.

In particular, G.M. is trying to squirm its way out of paying damages to victims injured and the families of people who died due to a defective ignition part that the company knew about and tried to cover up. So far, the ignition switch defect has been linked to at least 56 deaths and hundreds of injuries. G.M. had received 4,312 claims for damages as of this week.

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Car Manufacturer Not Admitting Airbag Defect to Blame for the Death

A 35 year-old father of two ran into another vehicle almost a month ago in a low speed collision in a parking lot in a Houston suburb. His airbags deployed. Tragically, a piece of metal shot shot out from the airbag of the Honda and pierced Carlos Solis’s neck. The Houston man died at the scene. 

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences just released its autopsy report which concluded that Mr. Solis died from blunt-force injuries to the neck.

“Takata’s No. 1 priority is the safety of the driving public.”

Despite the clear evidence, Takata and Honda deny the obvious: Mr. Solis died because of a airbag defect. The car manufacturer has claimed it “was too early to conclude the airbag was responsible,” according to the New York Times.

In an interview with the New York Times, Takata spokesperson Jared Levy said, “Takata’s
No. 1 priority is the safety of the driving public.” However, the airbag manufacturer was aware of the frightening problem as early as 2004 and didn’t take substantial steps to fix the defects until 2009, and only after multiple injuries and deaths.

Although Honda is urging drivers to repair recalled cars as soon as possible, the manufacturer has also noted that a shortage of parts may make timely repair impossible. Honda is sending out letters notifying car owners only as parts become available. This backlog means thousands of these dangerous cars remain on the road.

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Federal Law Does Not Require Dealers to Fix Defects Or Notify Customers

Used car dealers are not required to repair defects in recalled vehicles on their lots or to tell buyers about the recalls. Without legislation, car dealers have little incentive to address this dangerous issue. Fixing the problem costs the dealer precious time and money that it may not recoup from the sale. Telling a prospective costumer that she or he is now responsible for arranging for repairs may lose the sale altogether. A federal law is, therefore, necessary to protect the safety of buyers.

Rental Car Companies Not Responsible for Repairs Either

Customers have the right to expect rental cars to be up to basic safety standards. Yet, rental companies are not required to fix or disclose defects in recalled vehicles in their fleets. Again, without a legislative mandate, rental companies have little incentive to take cars out of service or drive away potential customers. 

Several major retail companies have agreed to voluntarily make all repairs of recalled cars before renting them. However, the customer is forced to rely upon the word of the company under this self-enforcement arrangement. And, a customer who rents a shiny, clean vehicle from an Avis, an Enterprise or a Hertz can’t possibly know what is lurking under the hood.

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Recall May Require a Second Trip to the Dealership

Chrysler, Honda and Toyota have issued a follow-up recall of 2.12 million vehicles. Many customers have already had repairs made under the initial recall. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains that the initial recall did not entirely fix the problem. Also, consumers who did not respond to the first recall are being told to do so now. 

The defective airbags are at risk of inadvertently deploying. Already, approximately 400 airbags have randomly deployed in the affected cars. Fortunately, nobody has died because of the malfunction, but three people have been injured.

39 of the inadvertent airbag deployments occurred in vehicles that were repaired under an earlier recall. The first recall required installation of filters or wire harnesses that protected the key circuit from sustaining dangerous electronic damage. The second recall involves replacement of the electronic control module. The problem originates from defects in the parts made by American supplier TRW Automotive. 

This is a different issue from the recall of airbags produced by Takata. The Takata recall remedied the high velocity explosion of canisters during airbag deployment that caused metal fragments to shoot into the vehicle’s interior. Several people were killed or seriously injured by the shards of metal.

Which Vehicles Are Effected By the Recall?

In this second airbag recall, Toyota is recalling about 1 million vehicles, American Honda is recalling 374,177 cars and Fiat Chrysler is recalling 753,176.

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Crash Tests Show Serious Defects in Popular Minivan Models

The minivan is a staple for many Texas families that need to tout several children around town. Parents are able to fit their kids, sports equipment, groceries and multitude other items into these convenient vehicles, which also have a reputation for being very safe.

But how safe is your minivan? Although popular minivan models performed well on older testing platforms, they exhibited serious flaws when subjected to the new small overlap front crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In some cases, the researchers had to cut the test dummy out of the vehicle using a crowbar. Had the dummy been a human being, the driver would have suffered horrific leg injuries.

Small Overlap Front Crash Tests

The small overlap front crash test replicates a common accident scenario in which the driver strikes another car or s stationary object — such as a pole or tree — with the front corner of the vehicle. The new test was introduced because these types of frontend corner crashes account for one-fourth of fatal and severe automobile accident injuries in vehicles that had previously earned a Good rating in the IIHS’s older version of the front overlap test. In the new test, 25 percent of the front end of the vehicle on the driver’s side hits a solid barrier at a speed of 40 mph, mimicking a typical real-life situation.

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President Nominates Mark R. Rosekind to Fill National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vacancy

Shrapnel that flies from an exploding airbag; a lance-like highway guardrail that pierces a crashing car; a malfunctioning ignition switch that sends a car hurdling into speeding traffic; a sleep-deprived tractor-trailer driver who rams into a car and kills its occupants. These horrific incidents make daily headlines in what has been described as a series of safety crises in the transportation industry. Unfortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) has been slow to take action to protect the public from these serious dangers.That may be about to change with a new leader at the agency’s helm.

President Obama has nominated an unusual candidate, Mark R. Rosekind, as chief of the N.H.T.S.A. Often this position goes to a person from the automotive industry or from within the agency. Mr. Rosekind currently occupies a position on the National Transportation Safety Board (N.T.S.B.) and is a specialist in human fatigue. The members of the N.T.S.B. regularly butt heads with auto industry executives because of the expensive safety recommendations it often proposes. Mr. Rosekind won even more critics in 2013 with his recommendation that the blood alcohol concentration per se intoxication standard be set at .05 percent down from the existing level of .08 percent — a proposal I highly support.

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