Detroit: Federal Agency Probes 2.2 Million Vehicles : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Thursday September 21 3:38 PM ET Federal Agency Probes 2.2 Million Vehicles

DETROIT (Reuters) - Federal highway safety officials have upgraded or opened investigations into more than 2.2 million vehicles made by General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news), Volkswagen AG (VOWG.F), the North American unit of DaimlerChrysler AG (NYSE:DCX - news)(DCXGn.DE) and Volvo, owned by Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news).

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (news - web sites) (NHTSA), in its latest monthly defect report, said it had opened probes, or preliminary investigations, into cars made by Chrysler, VW and Volvo, and it upgraded one GM and two VW investigations to the status of engineering analyses.

After NHTSA upgrades to an engineering analysis, it can ask a carmaker to recall all or some of the vehicles in question or drop the analysis without making a finding.

NHTSA said it upgraded its probe of 401,472 Saturn S-Series small cars from model years 1994 and 1995 made by GM before Jan. 31, 1994 and after Aug. 15 1994 for possible excessive wear in the recliner gear teeth that can cause the seatback to recline or collapse rearward inadvertently.

The probe was opened by the safety agency following a recall in March 1999 of 136,300 S-Series cars made between the 1994 dates for the same problem, GM spokesman Greg Martin said. The agency was concerned the vehicles may have the same problem.

``This does not mean that a defect exists or a recall may be required,'' he said. ``We're being prudent and cautious in response to consumer complaints.''

NHTSA said it and GM have received 328 complaints and reports of 14 accidents and 10 people injured. GM said the Saturn vehicles currently being probed weren't recalled last year because the number of complaints was too low.

Probes also were upgraded into about 112,000 of VW's Audi A4 sedans from model years 1996-2000 for possible degraded braking in wet weather and into 108,348 1996-model VW Passat and Jetta cars for possible light or windshield wiper failure that can lead to obscured vision, the agency said.

In the Audi probe, NHTSA said it has received 71 complaints and a report of one crash with no injuries.

In the Passat and Jetta probe, the safety agency said it and VW have received 15 complaints and the German automaker has handled almost 4,500 claims related to ignition switch replacement or repair, not all having to do with the problem being investigated.

NHTSA opened two preliminary evaluations into about 655,000 Chrysler minivans.

One probe of about 630,000 1996-model Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Grand Voyager, and Chrysler Town & Country minivans was for possible failure of the air bag system to deploy in an accident because of a broken air bag wire in the clockspring assembly, NHTSA said. There have been 55 complaints, but no reports of accidents or injuries.

NHTSA also is probing an estimated 25,000 1999-model Town & Country minivans equipped with front seat heaters for alleged overheating in the unit that can cause fires.

The agency said it has received four complaints, three involving fires, but no reports of injuries. Owners said dealers told them the problem was caused by a faulty heater element in the seats.

NHTSA also opened a probe into an undetermined number of VW Passat, Jetta and Cabrio cars from model years 1993-2000 for possible fuel tank punctures. VW said 852,000 of those cars were made in the affected years.

The agency said it has received nine complaints indicating the fuel tank was damaged as a result of a blowout of the right rear tire. There were no reports of accidents or injuries, and VW officials said they are cooperating.

NHTSA opened an investigation into an estimated 167,000 Volvo V70 and S70 cars from the 1998 and 1999 model years for possible turn signal failure. The agency said it has received 14 complaints.

-- Rachel Gibson (, September 21, 2000



Thursday September 21 1:44 PM ET Ford Explorer Investigated for Problem Suspension

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co.'s (NYSE:F - news) popular Explorer sport utility vehicle, already under a cloud of scrutiny for its role in the Firestone tire recall, is now being investigated by federal regulators for a potential problem with part of its front suspension.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it has opened a preliminary evaluation of the 1995-96 model year Explorers as a result of 13 complaints of failure on one or both of the front stabilizer bar links.

``In all cases, complainants report that vehicle stability is reduced -- especially at speeds above 40 mph (miles per hour), and in turns and lane changes,'' the NHTSA said.

Unlike the recalled Firestone (5018.T) tires, which federal investigators have linked to as many as 101 deaths, the NHTSA reported no accidents, injuries or fatalities as a result of problems with the stabilizer bar part, which keeps the vehicle from swaying excessively in turns.

Ford spokesman Mike Vaughn said Ford will cooperate fully in the preliminary investigation.

Vaughn said Ford owner record reports indicate most of the complaints occurred in cold weather states and Canada, where salt is used on the roads to melt ice, as well as areas of rapid climate change. Most owners reported excessive noise or sometimes vague handling of their Explorer with the problem.

The NHTSA said that a Ford service department has indicated that Ford increased the diameter of the stabilizer bar link in model year 1997.

Sales of the Explorer slipped only slightly last month, despite being linked to Firestone's massive recall of 6.5 million tires in the United States.

The Explorer, fitted with the recalled Firestone tires as standard equipment, was involved in most of the accidents and fatalities the NHTSA is investigating in connection to the recall.

-- Rachel Gibson (, September 21, 2000.

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