Auto Product Liability
It is estimated that nine out of every ten serious car crashes in the United States are caused by human error. Can automated safety features in vehicles help prevent these accidents? Statistically, the answer is yes. However, we cannot rely on technology to do all the work for us. As more and more semi-autonomous vehicles find their way onto our roadways, some people will take that as an excuse to neglect the act of driving and pay less attention.
Putting gas contaminated with water into your car may cost you more than vehicle repairs—it could cost you your life. If water gets into your gas tank, your engine will die, and you won’t be able to restart it. This situation can be very dangerous if you’re on a busy highway and are unable to make it to the shoulder.
The auto world is abuzz with talk about self-driving cars. Will they work? Will they be safe? When will they be on the market? Companies like Volvo, Tesla, BMW, Google, and Uber are all investing heavily in the development of autonomous vehicles, and it is generally accepted that this will be the future of the automotive industry.
In the automotive industry, it is imperative for manufacturers to consider the consequences of building cars with faulty parts.
Even with quality control practices in place, vehicles are still occasionally assembled using defective parts. These vehicles can cause accidents that injure the driver, passengers, other vehicle drivers, and even pedestrians.
Last week, Ford announced a recall of nearly 400,000 2012-2014 Ford Fiestas and 2013-2014 Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZs for defective door latches. According to a May 1 news report in Car and Driver, Ford is now adding another 156,000 cars to the recall. There are approximately 456,440 vehicles in the United States that have defective door latches capable of swinging open at unexpected times.
These defective doors have latching mechanisms that can break, making it impossible to shut the door. In some cases, the defective auto part can cause the door to swing open suddenly while driving. It is unclear if anyone has been seriously injured because of the defective auto parts, but there have been a few inci dents. Two people were injured in separate accidents involving a door bouncing back when shut. In another crash, a door became unlatched and hit another car.
When there are numerous reported problems with a particular motor vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may conduct a defect investigation. If it is clear that consumers are in danger because a part of the vehicle was poorly designed or assembled, the NHTSA may administer a safety recall. In recent years, there have been many recalls involving faulty tires, defective brakes and poorly designed child safety seats. Hyundai Motor Co. is one of the most recent automakers that have issued a major recall because of serious safety concerns.
The NHTSA reports that Sonata cars from model years 2011 to 2014 have a transmission-shift cable that can detach from the shift-lever pin. When this happens, the gear selection may not match the indicated gear causing the car to move in an unexpected direction. As a result of this defect, Reuters reports that Hyundai is recalling 883,000 Sonata mid-sized sedans in the United States and in Puerto Rico. A spokesman for the company has stated that there have been no reported accidents, injuries or fatalities resulting from the defect.
On the surface, the massive General Motors recall of faulty ignition switches is like any other safety recall. GM recognized that there was a defect in their product that put consumers at risk and issued a recall of 2.6 million vehicles. However, this auto recall is different. According to a recent news report in The Consumerist, GM spent about a decade failing to issue a recall despite possessing full knowledge that the ignitions were dangerous. This failure to act has lead to at least 13 traffic deaths and it has sparked a civil and criminal investigation into the practices of GM.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently looking into when GM became aware of the ignition defect. The first report of a potential problem was documented in the pre-production notes of the 2002 Saturn Ion back in 2001-2002. GM also knew there was an issue with the ignition switch of the Chevy Cobalt in 2005 because they opened a number of engineering inquiries into the problem. In 2007, the NHTSA threatened to open an investigation because of reports of cars turning off. However, it wasn’t until 2012-2013 that GM admitted that the ignition switches were in fact broken, resulting in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles in 2014.
In mid February, General Motors issued a recall of more than 780,000 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles for defective ignition switches. GM has now announced that they are doubling the recall after 13 deaths were reported. According to The Associated Press, 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts, Saturn Sky sport cars, Pontiac Solstice, and Chevrolet HHR SUVs have been added to the list of recalled vehicles.
The Chrysler Group has agreed to recall 1.56 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) slashed the number of vehicles that should be recalled by over a million. According to a news report in USA Today, the auto manufacturer fought the recall for two weeks because they found the original recall of 2.7 million vehicles by the NHTSA to be too costly.
Government officials requested the recall as a response to a growing number of deadly vehicle fires involving rear-end crashes. Chrysler could have prevented a number of these fires had they installed longer fuel-filler hoses that would have stayed on the fuel tank during a collision. The 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs involved in the recall have hoses that are prone to becoming detached during a rear collision. When this occurs, fuel can leak and catch fire.
A gearshift problem has forced Chrysler to issue a major worldwide Jeep recall. The Examiner reports that almost 470,000 Jeep vehicles have been recalled, including 2006 to 2010 Jeep Commanders and 2005 to 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokees. According to the recall notice, these SUVs can shift into neutral from park without warning, increasing the risk of a rollaway.
Chrysler began looking into this potentially dangerous defect when a customer reported in January 2012 that the vehicle rolled away after being started remotely. Chrysler has since been notified of 26 accidents and two injuries linked to the defective auto part. There have been no reported fatalities. Chrysler plans to notify owners by mail and to fix the problem at no cost. This is the largest Chrysler recall since November 2012 when over 900,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs were recalled. That auto recall involved defective airbags that could deploy inadvertently.
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