Monthly Archives: June 2014

More Airbag Recalls

Airbags are meant to be a safety feature but with more and more automakers forcing massive recalls due to defective airbags, who can you really trust?  A recall of defective airbags is spreading to more manufacturers.  BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota will all recall cars at the U.S. government’s request because their airbag inflators could rupture.

If ruptures happen, the airbags might not work properly in a crash, and shards from the ruptured system could fly out and cause injury.   In each case, the airbags are made by Japanese supplier Takata.  The government opened an investigation this month after getting six reports of airbags rupturing. It estimates 1.1 million vehicles in the U.S. could be affected.

The recalls are limited to states and territories that have hot, humid weather for long periods of time. The government says data suggests vehicles in those areas are most at risk.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that automakers who use air bags made by Japanese supplier Takata will recall vehicles sold in states with hot, humid weather. Automakers will repair the vehicles for free, and in most cases replace both the driver’s side and passenger side air bag inflators, which can rupture. All of the automakers except Honda are limiting the recalls to Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, on the advice of Takata.  If you believe that your car may be one that will be recalled and you live in this type of climate, you should bring your car into a dealership as soon as possible.

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GM Forced in Hearing for Recalls

The GM  recall problem seems to never head for this automotive giant.  Mary T. Barra, chief executive of General Motors, is expected to tell a House panel on Wednesday that the auto giant is determined to change its culture and prevent another safety crisis similar to its deadly delay in recalling millions of small cars with a defective switch.

But Ms. Barra is likely to face skeptical questions from some lawmakers, who plan to ask her about contradictions between the findings of G.M.’s internal investigation and the congressional committee’s inquiry, according to congressional staff members.

Among those questions are whether a lower-level engineer, Raymond DeGiorgio, acted alone in approving the switch’s original design and later modification, what role cost pressures may have played in his decisions, and what Ms. Barra knew about product safety issues before she became chief executive in January.

GM’s internal investigation, by the former federal prosecutor Anton R. Valukas, who will also testify at the hearing, singled out Mr. DeGiorgio as bearing much of the responsibility for why the company did not fix the switch for more than a decade. The switch could easily turn off, shutting the engine and disabling air bags. G.M. has linked at least 13 deaths to the defect.

Mr. DeGiorgio not only approved the switch, the report said, but after modifying it in 2006 by making it harder to turn, he helped hide the problem when he failed to change the corresponding part number.

But Mr. DeGiorgio told congressional investigators that he had not acted alone, and that other G.M. engineers had been involved in the approval process because the switch had other problems.

Mr. Valukas’s report also said that Mr. DeGiorgio was responsible for fixing the switch, and signed off on the change. But congressional staff members say that at least five G.M. employees appear to have been aware of the change. And a G.M. “supply quality engineer” signed off on it with Mr. DeGiorgio, according to the investigators.

Beyond Mr. DeGiorgio’s role, the panel wants to ask Ms. Barra whether cost and time pressures at G.M. influenced Mr. DeGiorgio to approve the switch, even though it did not meet G.M. specifications for the amount of force needed to turn the key. At the time, early in the last decade, G.M. was reeling from billions in losses. It would eventually tumble into bankruptcy in 2009.

“The series of questionable actions and inactions uncovered in the investigation were inexcusable,” Ms. Barra wrote in her prepared remarks, and she plans to tell lawmakers she had already begun a program that encourages employees to report safety problems.

Ms. Barra, who first testified on April 1 before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, is likely to fall under more scrutiny this time, the staff members said.

As part of what Mr. Valukas called a dysfunctional management culture at G.M., the report stated that “those in the best position to demand quick answers did not know questions needed to be asked.”

But the congressional investigators say that high-level company executives attended a meeting in 2009 where the problems were discussed. And some of the decision makers identified by Mr. Valukas worked under Ms. Barra when she was executive vice president for global product development, congressional investigators say.

Lawmakers also plan to ask Ms. Barra why G.M. continued to install switches in 2008 through 2011 vehicles, even when those switches did not meet its specifications, the staff members said. G.M. has not acknowledged doing this, in its own statements or in Mr. Valukas’s report.

Another contradiction is that while G.M. said it mistakenly classified the switch problem as a “convenience issue” and not a safety question, because it did not recognize the connection of the ignition switch to air bag non-deployment. This was not the first time the classification question was raised.  GM has lost a large amount of respect from its customers and is now coming into questions from all sides.

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Another Massive Recall From GM

General Motors has had some massive recalls as of late and the one announced today just adds to the the grand total.

General Motors announced four more recalls today covering more than 500,000 cars sold in the United States — including every Camaro sold since the current iteration of the iconic muscle car went on sale.

The Camaro recall was prompted by an ignition switch problem similar to the one that bedeviled models such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, but GM said the switch meets all engineering specifications and is unrelated to the ignition system used in the cars included in the previous recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

The Camaro recall affects 464,712 vehicles sold in the United States from the 2010-14 model years, and another 46,816 sold in foreign markets such as Canada and Mexico.

GM said that a driver’s knee can bump the key fob and knock the ignition switch out of the “run” position, cutting power to the engine. The company said it knows of three crashes, resulting in four minor injuries, that may have been caused by this condition.

GM said it discovered the key’s potential to be knocked out of position during internal testing this year after the Cobalt controversy began.

The automaker will make the key and fob independent from each other. The current design conceals the key within the fob; the key is released from the fob with the press of a button.

“Discovering and acting on this issue quickly is an example of the new norm for product safety at GM,” Jeff Boyer, the company’s newly appointed vice president of global safety, said in a statement.

The latest round of recalls brings GM’s total for the year to 38 actions affecting 16.5 million vehicles, including 14.4 million vehicles sold in the United States.  Although Jeff Boyer is correct that it is important that they found this mistake quickly, the real answer is that these cars should have never left the lot with this defect.

Check out the full article here 

Introducing Mini’s Concept Car: Superleggera

Mini  has put the word out that their concept car called “The Superleggera” may be going into production sooner then later.

The little convertible blends retro and modern together better than any Mini in years. There is even more good news about the roadster as well because the company is considering actually building it. We even have some renders of what the production version could look like.

Mini boss Peter Schwarzenbauer tells Automotive News at the 2014 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, that the Superleggera might have a life beyond its debut. “We wanted to test how Mini enthusiasts worldwide were reacting to such a different type of Mini. So far, it has received overwhelming appreciation,” he said to AN. But here’s the bad news. All of the unique elements of the droptop wouldn’t be cheap to build. Pricing would likely be around 35,000 euros if BMW gives it the green light, according to Schwarzenbauer. It’s too early to know whether the road car would use the electric motor from the concept or something more conventional.

The Superleggera Vision concept comes from the creative minds at Touring Superleggera who are also responsible for the gorgeous, modernized Disco Volante. The wonderful thing about the design is that it’s still obviously a Mini but somehow adds a sprinkle of Aston Martin.

There are images available allowing us to visualize what the roadster might like if production is granted. It tones down the shape at the front and adds an actual grille. At the back (right), Chin makes the rear end a little more curvaceous but also shrinks the car’s fin. In all, even if pricey, we think it’s a car that could find some takers if built. Mini believes that this new car may be the boost they need in the North American and cause sales to skyrocket.

See the full article here