Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Center for Auto Safety names Ditlow's successor



CHECK OUT ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THEIR WEB SITE:

Center for Auto Safety Names Jason K. Levine Executive Director


Center for Auto Safety names Ditlow's successor



August 15, 2017



Jason Levine: "American consumers expect their government to prevent the false advertising of used cars and protect the environment from auto pollution. Yet, the only momentum we see in Washington is a regulatory rollback that too many in the auto industry are aiding and abetting."

The Center for Auto Safety
 has appointed an official with a track record in federal government consumer protection agencies as its new executive director, the advocacy group said Tuesday.
Jason Levine, who spent about six years at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission during the administration of former President Barack Obama, succeeds Clarence Ditlow, who died in November last year.
Levine has also worked for the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services.
In a news release, Levine said: "Despite rising auto fatalities, and new recalls coming almost daily, the current administration has shown no interest in meeting its statutory duty and moral responsibility to enforce safety laws on behalf of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
"American consumers expect their government to prevent the false advertising of used cars and protect the environment from auto pollution. Yet, the only momentum we see in Washington is a regulatory rollback that too many in the auto industry are aiding and abetting. The Center's role as the eyes, ears, and voice of the consumer is more important than ever."
The Center for Auto Safety was founded in 1970 by consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader and Consumers Union.

http://www.autonews.com/article/20170815/OEM11/170819888/center-for-auto-safety-names-ditlows-successor

Monday, August 14, 2017

NHTSA, Ford and CO Poisoning: Sickening


Even if you don't drive and own a FORD, others driving on our roads may be impaired from the effects of CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING. 

NHTSA'S FAILURE: 












NHTSA, Ford and CO Poisoning: Sickening


If your local police department has a fleet of Ford Explorer Interceptors, it’s probably trying to determine if the vehicle – an Explorer modified for law enforcement use – is sickening its officers during long periods of idling or hard acceleration. But if you are the civilian owner of one of these vehicles, keep a close eye on the noises Ford or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration makes about a recall.    

In July 2016, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a probe into reports of occupants smelling exhaust odors in the occupant compartments of 2011-2015 Explorers. “Complainants expressed concerns about exposure to carbon monoxide.” At the time, the agency had tallied 154 complaints. What happened in the Preliminary Evaluation was – up until two weeks ago – anyone’s guess, because other than the Opening Resume and an Information Request letter to Ford demanding a response by August 24, 2016, nothing else was ever added to the public file.

In the space of a year, the complaints piled up. Ford reported fielding 2,051, while 791 drivers complained to NHTSA’s Vehicle Owner’s Questionnaire hotline. Some of those complaints were getting mad press because they came from police departments from Auburn, Mass. to Austin, Texas. Ford owns a large share of the law enforcement vehicle market. Introduced to the fleet in 2012, the Interceptor accounted for 60 percent of Ford police vehicle sales in 2013 – more than 14,000 police SUVs. By 2015, Ford was bragging in a press release that the Interceptor “quickly became America's best-selling police vehicle - which has helped Ford capture 61 percent market share through June 2015.”

Inconveniently for public safety, and Ford’s bottom line and brand ID as the go-to automaker for law enforcement, at least five officers lost consciousness, were hospitalized for CO exposure or crashed their SUVs after huffing the cabin air of their Interceptors.  For example, in September 2015, a Newport Beach, California officer “passed out while driving his Interceptor,” swerving “across two lanes of oncoming traffic, nearly hitting another car head on, and crashed into a tree at 55 mph,” according to CNN. After an Auburn, Massachusetts officer rear-ended another vehicle in late July, he and the vehicle tested positive for carbon monoxide.  

As stories of police departments parking their Interceptors have proliferated, Ford has been dispatching investigative teams to municipalities to assess the damage and assure its customers whose vehicles are paid for by the taxpayers that it will “cover the costs in every Police Interceptor with this issue, no matter what its age, mileage or post-purchase modifications,” according to news reports. 

If you paid for an Explorer directly from your own pocket, Ford seems a lot less interested in solving your problem – although there have been civilian Explorer buy-backs, and several apparently unsuccessful Technical Service Bulletins. Nonetheless, the company has been very careful to build what is known in Ford internal circles as the “defendable fence,” a way to limit the defect to a discreet population of vehicles, protecting the company from a much bigger recall that could include more than a million vehicles. This term surfaced in a 1995 memo on ignition switch fires in 28 million 1983 to 1995 light trucks and passenger cars with the same design. Ford has used this strategy to limit recalls of Ford F-150 cruise control deactivation switch fires, thick film ignition and stuck throttles.

The Explorer’s Chief Engineer Bill Gubing has been out there pushing the idea that the carbon monoxide is entering the occupant compartment via unsealed spaces and wiring holes drilled in the course of implementing after-market features specific to police work, such as emergency lights and radios. Other Ford Explorer owners need not be concerned Gubing reportedly said:

From a carbon monoxide perspective, the police duty cycle is very different than what a retail customer drives…It creates more combustion gas at the back of the vehicle because the engine’s working harder and faster. At the same time, there are modifications done to the back of the vehicle that certainly provide leak paths when those modifications are not done properly. We don’t see the retail customers driving like that. We don’t see retail customers with those modifications.

So that’s how carbon monoxide is getting into police Explorers. How is it getting into many, many, many more Explorers owned by regular folk? According to several Technical Service Bulletins Ford issued in 2012, 2014 and 2016, this problem surfaces when “the auxiliary climate control system is on,” and “may be worsened when the climate control system is in recirculate mode and the vehicle is heavily accelerated for an extended period.” The fixes concerned replacing vents, checking drain valves and reprogramming the heating ventilation air conditioning module to the latest calibration. 

In late July, ODI bumped up the investigation to an Engineering Analysis. By then the agency had collected 791 complaints and identified 41 injuries such as headaches, nausea and light-headedness in 25 incidents. Only 11 complaints involved police Interceptors. 

NHTSA’s first take on the Interceptor problem is cracks in the exhaust manifold, not deliberate, aftermarket perforations. Its tests at the Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) in East Liberty, Ohio, along with field inspections, has led it to theorize that “CO levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios, although the significance and effect of those levels remains under evaluation as part of the EA.” But it has also suggested that NHTSA may well respect Ford’s fence: “To date, no substantive data or actual evidence (such as a carboxyhemoglobin measurement) has been obtained supporting a claim that any of the alleged injury or crash allegations were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, the alleged hazard.” 

The consumer-reported Vehicle Owner’s Questionnaires certainly support the notion that CO levels can become elevated during acceleration. Civilians, who also need to accelerate their vehicles – even if not engaging in a high-speed chase – have been reporting that the fumes engulf them when they hit the gas hard.

An owner from Strabane, Pennsylvania told NHTSA in June 2016:

Several times when driving two of my children ages 2 and 10 complained of a bad smell coming from the third row seating. They both became strangely ill, but only my 2 year old began vomiting. My 10 year old complained of being light headed during several long trips. I noticed on many occasions that during high acceleration anyone that sits in the third row complains of stomach aches after a lengthy time in the vehicle. I chalked it up to car sickness, but remembered this only became relevant when leasing this ford. Please help us. I have three kids and no other vehicle.

An Explorer owner in Canyon County, California told NHTSA in February 2017:

While driving the car on the freeway and under acceleration there is a horrible exhaust smell that makes my kids and myself nauseous. It also gives me constant headaches. I didn't realize what was happening until my husband got in the car for the first time and noticed the exhaust smell.

An owner from Brandon, Missouri reported in January 2017:

The smell is very harsh smells like burnt hair or sulfur. On long trips my wife has had severe headaches. This Explorer is the vehicle my wife and kids (ages 14, 5, & 2) use to get to work and school; I need to get this vehicle repaired or replaced. Please help!!!

From the owner of a 2015 Explorer in Juno Beach, Florida:

After heavy acceleration, the cabin has a strong foul sulfur odor that is unbearable. We have had it in to a Ford dealership to have both TSBs performed - the second took 5 days! And it still has not changed. Disgusting smell. This happens when we accelerate as on to the highway or to pass in challenging situations. I only have to press the gas pedal about half way down for 4-5 seconds and the smell is overwhelming. Activating the turbo chargers for any length of time brings this smell into the cabin. Then all of the windows have to go down to clear the smell. My mother can't take this anymore and my wife complains of headaches. This has been an ongoing for a year and a half!

Despite this defect’s high profile, the public information has only dribbled out of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation. Neither Ford’s response to the Preliminary Evaluations or any work the agency has done has been shared with the public. As it opened the Engineering Analysis, ODI summarized parts of Ford’s response and testing it was doing out in East Liberty. The files themselves are not accessible, despite the agency’s regular transparency proclamations. 

For example, in 2012, the agency requested a $10,611,000 appropriation for Safety Defects Investigation activities, $782,000 above the FY 2010 funding level, to, among other things, “ensure that all public information related to investigations, recalls, and complaints is current.” In June 2015, NHTSA released a Workforce Assessment report in which one of its purported goals for ODI was: “Assure that information relating to investigations and recalls is readily available to the public.” On its website, NHTSA states that “NHTSA is committed to providing the most accurate and complete information available to its customers, the American traveling public, in a helpful and courteous fashion.”

Unfortunately, help and courtesy does not come cheap. In June, Safety Research & Strategies submitted a Freedom of Information Request for the non-confidential documents in the investigative file, and the agency told us that they’d be happy to oblige for about $780 dollars. 

First, these materials shouldn’t require a FOIA request – at least according to NHTSA. By law, all federal agencies are required to publish records that because of “the nature of their subject matter, the agency  determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records; or that have been requested 3 or more times.” In addition, agencies are required to publish a general index of those frequently-requested records. NHTSA’s Electronic Reading Room webpage listing those categories of records that “are available without the need for a FOIA request:” includes such “frequently requested records and information” such as downloads of defect investigation records.

We’ve argued that these documents should be released at no charge because the information is squarely in the public interest, and because NHTSA by custom and by regulation is supposed to put non-confidential investigative material in the public files. We’ve requested that the fee be waived. Stay tuned.



http://www.safetyresearch.net/blog/articles/nhtsa-ford-and-co-poisoning-sickening



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

U.S. Asks Judge to Dismiss Toyota Acceleration Case as Monitoring Ends






U.S. Asks Judge to Dismiss Toyota Acceleration Case as Monitoring Ends



REUTERS

AUG. 8, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday asked a federal judge to dismiss a criminal charge against Toyota Motor Corp after the Japanese automaker completed three years of monitoring as part of a $1.2 billion settlement over claims of sudden unintended acceleration in its vehicles.

The request, filed in federal court in Manhattan, should bring to an end Toyota's legal woes stemming from its admission that it misled U.S. consumers by concealing and making deceptive statements about the extent of sudden acceleration problems in 2009 and 2010.

In 2014, the world's second-largest automaker paid what was then a record fine for a car company to settle the case and reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department. That agreement included three years of oversight by an independent monitor, which ended on Monday.

Former U.S. attorney David Kelley, who acted as the monitor, declined to comment, citing confidentiality rules.

Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said the automaker was pleased the government confirmed Toyota's compliance with the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement and was moving to dismiss the case.

"Over the past three years, we have worked hard in the spirit of continuous improvement to make Toyota a stronger company that serves its customers better," he said.

In bringing charges, the Justice Department said that Toyota minimized problems, misled regulators and provided inaccurate information to Congress in the scandal linked to at least five deaths.


In 2014, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said the case presented a "reprehensible picture of corporate misconduct" and expressed hope the government would ultimately hold responsible decision-makers at Toyota accountable. "This, unfortunately, is a case that demonstrates that corporate fraud can kill," he said.In 2014, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said the case presented a "reprehensible picture of corporate misconduct" and expressed hope the government would ultimately hold responsible decision-makers at Toyota accountable. "This, unfortunately, is a case that demonstrates that corporate fraud can kill," he said.

Ultimately, the Justice Department did not bring criminal charges against current or former Toyota executives.

The $1.2 billion settlement was the largest penalty levied by the United States on an auto company until Volkswagen AG admitted to diesel emissions fraud earlier this year and paid $4.3 billion in fines.

Toyota made significant changes to its safety practices after the recall crisis that briefly forced it to halt sales of nearly half of its vehicles in 2010 and led to company president Akio Toyoda appearing before Congress to apologize.

Toyota settled other related suits, including an agreement covering as many as 22 million current and former Toyota owners over sudden acceleration claims valued at as much as $1.63 billion. There are still some individual civil claims pending in California.

Ultimately, the Justice Department did not bring criminal charges against current or former Toyota executives.

The $1.2 billion settlement was the largest penalty levied by the United States on an auto company until Volkswagen AG admitted to diesel emissions fraud earlier this year and paid $4.3 billion in fines.

Toyota made significant changes to its safety practices after the recall crisis that briefly forced it to halt sales of nearly half of its vehicles in 2010 and led to company president Akio Toyoda appearing before Congress to apologize.

Toyota settled other related suits, including an agreement covering as many as 22 million current and former Toyota owners over sudden acceleration claims valued at as much as $1.63 billion. There are still some individual civil claims pending in California.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/08/08/business/08reuters-toyota-settlement.html



Nissan to pay $98 mil. to settle Takata suit in U.S.







https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/10/21/exploding-takata-air-bag-claims-11th-victim-us/92502330/

Nissan to pay $98 mil. to settle Takata suit in U.S.



ReutersWASHINGTON (Reuters) — Nissan Motor Co. on Tuesday agreed to pay $97.7 million to settle class-action claims of consumer economic loss in the United States tied to the recall of 4.4 million vehicles with Takata air bag inflators, court records show.
Nissan said in a statement that it was not admitting fault under the settlement.
The settlement is similar to others reached with major automakers. In June, a federal judge in Miami granted preliminary approval to settlements with Toyota Motor Corp., Subaru Corp., BMW AG and Mazda Motor Corp. totaling $553 million and affecting 15.8 million vehicles with Takata inflators.
At least 18 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide have been tied to the defect that led Takata Corp. to file for bankruptcy protection in June.
Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks.
Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. to date have not agreed to settle consumer economic loss claims.
All the settlements reached so far include an outreach program to contact owners of recalled vehicles and to address the low number of completed repairs, as well as compensation for economic losses including out-of-pocket expenses; a possible residual distribution payment of up to $500; rental cars for some owners; and a customer support program for repairs and adjustments, including an extended warranty.
Nissan said its settlement is “intended to significantly increase customer outreach and to accelerate recall remedy completion rates for Takata airbag inflator recalls.”
As of late June, only 29.9 percent of Nissan vehicles recalled with Takata inflators had been fixed.
The settlement is subject to court approval. A hearing to grant final approval for the other four automaker settlements is set for Oct. 25.
In January, Takata agreed to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and to pay $1 billion to resolve a U.S. federal investigation into its inflators.
Takata agreed to establish two independently administered restitution funds: one for $850 million to compensate automakers for recalls and a $125 million fund for individuals injured by its airbags who had not already reached a settlement. 


Takata seeks to suspend airbag victims' lawsuits against carmakers







Takata seeks to suspend airbag victims' lawsuits against carmakers









WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON -- Takata Corp.'s bankrupt U.S. business will ask a federal judge on Wednesday to suspend lawsuits against automakers that have been brought by people injured by its faulty air bag inflators, something that opponents say is an abuse of the law.
Takata and TK Holdings Inc., the company's U.S. unit, filed for bankruptcy in June and said they faced tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from its inflators, which are subject to the biggest recall in automotive history.
Bankruptcy automatically stayed hundreds of lawsuits against TK Holdings for wrongful death, injuries, economic loss and breach of consumer protection laws. But in July the company sought a preliminary injunction to suspend lawsuits against automakers that use its inflators.
Without the injunction, Takata said the litigation would distract management from completing the sale of the company's viable operations to Key Safety Systems for $1.6 billion and could threaten the supply of airbag inflators to replace recalled ones.
Plaintiffs' lawyers called the requested injunction "an abuse of the bankruptcy laws for the benefit of all of the world's largest automobile manufacturers." They said Takata's request would delay consideration of plaintiff's lawsuits for six months or more, which would be a very long time for the plaintiffs.
The official bankruptcy committee that represents injured drivers said in court papers the injunction would have "human consequences" and prevent people from pursuing compensation.
The committee cited the example of a 23-year-old New Jersey woman whose quadriplegia resulted from brain injuries that a government investigator said were caused by a faulty Takata airbag.
The woman's lawyers estimated her economic loss would be $18 million, which does not include potential damages for pain and suffering.
At least 18 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide have been linked to Takata airbags. Takata has said it expected 125 million vehicles worldwide to be recalled by 2019.
Takata set aside $125 million to compensate those injured by its air bags as part of a guilty plea, but plaintiffs' lawyers argue it will not be enough.
Major automakers including BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. sided with Takata in backing a six-month delay in lawsuits, arguing in a court filing that doing so would "advance the interests of their customers and the safety of the motoring public by increasing the likelihood" the Takata restructuring will succeed and "protect the supply of replacement inflators and diminish the risk of future deaths and injuries."






Sunday, August 6, 2017

Lower Saxony premier says VW vetted Dieselgate speech







Lower Saxony premier says VW vetted Dieselgate speech

The premier of one of Germany's biggest states says he allowed Volkswagen to vet a 2015 speech about the automaker's emissions fraud. For nearly 60 years, VW has been given special status under the law in Lower Saxony.

Lower Saxony's state premier partially denied a report in Sunday's Bild newspaper that he softened speeches critical of Volkswagen's diesel emissions fraud at the company's request.
However, Stephan Weil's office has confirmed that the state premier sent the speech to VW's chief lobbyist and lawyers for vetting before he delivered it. According to Weil's office, with US lawsuits pending, he wanted "to ensure that no legally or factually inaccurate statements were made."
A VW employee reportedly told Bild that Volkswagen "rewrote and watered down" Weil's October 2015 speech to the state legislature about the company's dangerous diesel fraud. "This was no fact check," the employee told Bild.
In the speech, Weil called VW "a pearl of German industry."
High penalties
VW executive Oliver Schmidt, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the US government and violating the Clean Air Act, faces up to $750,000 (637,000 euros) in fines and seven years in prison. In 2016, some top VW managers accepted cuts to their bonuses. The fraud has cost VW as much as $25 billion so far, though Volkswagen reported sales revenue of 217.3 billion euros ($256 billion) for 2016.
Though the industry has attempted to dismiss the issue, diesel fumes are a major contributor to global climate change and, more immediately, to cancers and cardiovascular conditions such as asthma. The overall environmental and public health effects of VW's fudged numbers have not yet been calculated.
Connections between German politicians and the auto industry
Several top German politicians have connections to the auto industry

Industry's long tentacles
Advocates have questioned whether the close ties between politicians and German carmakers have prevented the government from acting sooner to address the widening emissions fraud. Critics have also blasted the outcome of last week's diesel summit, saying that instead of insisting on harsher steps to rein in diesel emissions, German leaders have allowed lobbyists to sway them into adopting less onerous measures.
Politicians who have or have had consulting agreements with VW and other car industry behemoths include Daimler's chief lobbyist, Eckart von Klaeden, a Christian Democrat who worked under Merkel in the chancellery until 2013. His abrupt switch to the Mercedes manufacturer prompted an investigation by Berlin prosecutors and new rules on "cooling off" periods before politicians can make the common leap from governance and regulation to lucrative lobbying gigs. Top VW lobbyist Thomas Steg served as Lower Saxony's government spokesman until 2009.
Former Transportation Minister Matthias Wissmann has presided over the VDA auto industry lobby since 2007. Current ministry head Alexander Dobrindt has come under increasing pressure to explain how the German automaker was allowed to perpetuate international fraud under his watch.
Cem Ozdemir, Germany's top Greens politician, said the "conflation of politics and automotive industry" could damage the country's reputation and pose a "threat to the foundation of our market economy."
mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

DW RECOMMENDS

  • Date 06.08.2017





http://www.dw.com/en/lower-saxony-premier-says-vw-vetted-dieselgate-speech/a-39985096

NHTSA TOYOTA SAFETY RECALL






U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Your vehicle MAY be involved in a safety recall and MAY create a safety risk for you or your passengers. If left unrepaired, a potential safety defect could lead to injury or even death. Safety defects must be repaired by a dealer at no cost to you.

The following may apply to one or more of your vehicles if your vehicle is listed below. Click on the NHTSA Recall ID Number below to read more about the safety issue and the reason for the recall.
To find out if your specific passenger vehicle is included in the recall, use our VIN Look-up Tool.
NHTSA Recall ID Number :17V462
Manufacturer :Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing
Subject :Front Drive Shaft may Separate
MakeModelModel Years
TOYOTAAVALON HYBRID2016
TOYOTACAMRY HYBRID2016
What is a recall?
When a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines that a vehicle creates an unreasonable risk to safety or fails to meet minimum safety standards, the manufacturer is required to fix that vehicle at no cost to the owner. That can be done by repairing it, replacing it, offering a refund (for equipment) or, in rare cases, repurchasing the car.
What should I do if my vehicle is included in this recall?
If your vehicle is included in this recall, it is very important that you get it fixed as soon as possible given the potential danger to you and your passengers if it is not addressed. You should receive a separate letter in the mail from the vehicle manufacturer, notifying you of the recall and explaining when the remedy will be available, whom to contact to repair your vehicle, and to remind you that the repair will be done at no charge to you. If you believe your vehicle is included in the recall, but you do not receive a letter in the mail from the vehicle manufacturer, please call NHTSA's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236, or contact your vehicle manufacturer or dealership.
Thank you for your attention to this important safety matter and for your commitment to helping save lives on America's roadways.
Thank you,
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
United States Department of Transportation