Category Archives: Auto Safety

Fisker Recalls EV For Fire Risk

Fisker, maker of the latest in a long line of new electric vehicles, the Karma, is now recalling all 1900 Karma models they sold last year due to a risk of fire.

Vehicle recalls are nothing new for consumers. In fact, Ford, Mazda, GM and Volvo have all had major recalls far greater than the 1,900 vehicles Fisker is drawing back, but the fact that Fisker has only sold a handful of vehicles and already has a major recall is troubling.

In fact, this wasn’t even their first recall. They had one earlier this year which was caused by a problem with the battery:

“Cooling fans on all Karma models sold so far will be replaced, and an additional fuse will be installed as a secondary precaution. Fisker was quick to point out that the incident was in no way related to the battery pack or electric propulsion system, which the company addressed in a prior recall earlier this year, in which a faulty hose clamp could cause coolant leakage on the battery pack, possibly resulting in a short and a fire.”

No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of this problem, but clearly the company was concerned enough to recall all 2,000 of their Fisker Karma vehicles to fix the problem.

For those committed to using electric vehicles the recall will likely not be much a deterrent, however given the proliferation of alternative fueled vehicles, especially electric vehicles, they can always just move down to the next dealership rather than risk a company that might not have the most optimal designed vehicle.

Fisker is struggling with management and funding issues. They have burned through three CEO’s in the past year and the recent loss of funding from the Department of Energy has pushed back the release of their next model, the ‘Atlantic.’

New Car Tech Saves Lives (So They Say)

Cars today are light years ahead of where they were just a decade ago and all this new technology is actually saving lives. That’s the conclusion of a study done by the Highway Loss Data Institute, a non-profit research group supported by the insurance industry. They looked at a variety of the latest safety systems and found at least a few which were making a big difference when it comes to automobile safety:

Particularly effective, the study said, are “forward collision avoidance systems,” which alert drivers when they are quickly gaining on objects in their path and may crash. Some of these systems feature automatic braking if the driver fails to respond.

Car models available with this feature include the Mercedes-Benz CL Class sedan, the Volvo XC60 and the Acura MDX SUVs.

The Highway Loss Data Institute found that property damage liability claims were 14% lower for models from Acura and Mercedes-Benz featuring forward collision avoidance systems, including automatic braking, than in models without them. Property damage liability claims include damage to other vehicles caused by the insured vehicle.

The Volvo autonomous braking system reduced crashes by 10%, though that finding wasn’t deemed statistically significant.

Injury claims also dipped slightly for most vehicles with forward collision avoidance systems, though not by a statistically significant amount in most cases.

Not to be overlooked are basic safety systems such as seat belts and air bags which have also been shown to save lives, but which are now considered “yesterday’s news” when it comes to automobile technology.

As more vehicles continue to hit the roads and even more new drivers emerge from their garages, it stands to reason that the incidents of traffic crashes are going to go up. Automobile manufacturers are constantly looking for new ways to counter this trend and keep everyone, and their cars, as safe as possible.

Chevy Cruze Recalled — Twice

General Motors has finally relented to demands that they take a closer look at their Chevy Cruze and is now recalling more than 450,000 of them. All the Cruze vehicles which have been recalled are based in the United States and Canada. GM says it plans to modify parts that could cause fires in the engine compartment (something buyers have said has been happening.)

Nothing can ruin your Sunday drive like a fire in the engine compartment.

The second recall GM announced for the Chevy Cruze only involves about 61,000 Cruzes that may have problems with welds in the rear of the vehicles. Another problem with your Sunday drive might be the rear end breaking loose and cruising past you on the highway. Not that that has happened, but faulty welds can produce all manner of problems for vehicle owners and drivers.

The worst part of the story for GM (beside needing to recall almost half a million vehicles) is the fact that the Cruze is their second-best selling vehicle and has been touted by the company as a symbol of their resurgence as one of the world’s premier automobile manufacturers. Problems with the Cruze aside, it has proven to be popular with new car buyers who like it because it is sporty, futuristic and gets decent gas mileage.

Unfortunately, engine compartment fires and poor welds on the rear end are a different story. These are serious issues which owners are hoping the company can fix. The company hopes these problems do not set them back on their track toward continued success, but much of that will depend on how well they fix the problems for current owners and whether or not the problems with the Cruze line spread to other vehicles meaning it is a sign that their manufacturing and design process has further problems somewhere else.

Rental Car Companies Don’t Want To Fix What’s Broken

Safety advocates in Washington D.C. are reporting that three of the four major rental car companies in the United States are refusing to promise that they will not rent or sell vehicles which are defective or under recall. Only Hertz agreed to sign the pledge while Enterprise, Avis and Dollar Thrifty refused it outright saying they preferred to leave the matter up to consumers.

This is bad news for consumers and bad news for an industry which has come under increasing scrutiny following several major automobile recalls and an increasing number of consumer complaints. California Senator Barbara Boxer has been working with the four major rental companies (together they control more than 90 percent of the rental car market) to get them to simply agree they won’t rent or sell cars known to be defective. So far her efforts have been met with stiff resistance as three of the four major rental car companies jockey for position, trying to demonstrate they have the consumers’ best interests at heart.

However, refusing to commit to NOT selling or renting cars which are in need of repair or under recall seems like a far cry from having the consumers best interests at heart. In fact, it seems just the opposite.

Hertz was ready and willing to agree to the pledge as laid out by Boxer’s office, citing their responsibility to the consumers who rely on them to provide the very best service possible. This would seem like a no-brainer to most people who rely on customers to keep themselves in business, but apparently the major car rental companies have something else in mind.

For the consumer the solution seems obvious when it comes to renting a car which they know is not currently under recall nor in need of repair. How the other three car rental companies fare in this new business environment is much less obvious.

Memorial Day Warnings Abound: ‘Click It or Ticket’

In case you haven’t heard, there is a nationwide ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign going on right now. In most cases these campaigns will continue right through the first week of June. So, if you plan on driving anywhere, be certain you buckle up.

Wearing a seat belt every time you get behind the wheel, or climb into the back seat or get into any vehicle at all, is just common sense for most of us. Seat belts save lives. Hundreds of studies have been conducted over the past 50 years which have shown repeatedly that vehicle passengers who wear seat belts are safer, less likely to suffer injury or death, in the result of a crash. But despite all this evidence some people still refuse to wear a seat belt for a variety of reasons.

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that obese individuals were much less likely to buckle up than people with an average size frame. This is mostly due to comfort. Seat belts can be uncomfortable, especially if your body is pressed tightly against them, but it doesn’t reduce their ability to keep you safe. Some people actually believe their large frame will help protect them in the event of a crash, but unless they can bench press abut 12,000 pounds (the force of a front end crash at 35 mph) they just aren’t up to the job.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, although seat belt use around the state is up, people who drive pick-up trucks are still reluctant to buckle up. In fact, seat belt use by people who DO NOT drive pick-up trucks outpaces pick-up truck drivers by 4 to 1.

This nationwide ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign is designed to focus on those people who refuse to use their seat belt for whatever reason. Citations will be handed out by the thousands and maybe, just maybe, people will think twice before riding without a seat belt.

Street Racing Results In Flip

A 1968 Camaro is the perfect car to take down to your local race track and try out around the curves, or even on a supervised drag race. But if you race in the street the results might not be what you hoped for.

Such was the case for this unlucky racer. First, he smoked the tires coming off the line, then finished the race well ahead of his competition. Unfortunately, just seconds after crossing the finish line, the ’68 Camaro suddenly rolled over. You can tell from the cries of “oh no!” that nobody at the race expected him to roll, especially AFTER the race was finished. But the difference between what we expect and what we get is usually defined as an “accident.”

In this case the races were being supervised and the driver had installed special safety equipment, including a steel reinforced roll-cage meant to protect the occupants in the event of a crash. That might have something to do with the fact that he was able to storm off in a huff after the race instead of catching a ride in an ambulance.

Unfortunately he is still going to pay a hefty fee to get the body work, windshield and other repairs made to his car before he can take it out on the track again. I just hope he was insured.