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The Latest News And Reviews
Throughout The Car Industry



Categories: Safety

Dodge Durango Launches In Anger

On: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 3:39PM | By: John Welch


Dodge Durango Launches In Anger test 1-1

Chrysler has always had trouble unloading SUVs that don't carry "Jeep" badges. Remember the Ram Charger? Chevy sold five C/K Blazers for every Ram Charger. Ford sold seven Broncos for each Ram Charger. Yikes, not good! The numbers get worse for the Durango. The Ford Explorer absolutely trounced the Durango in every calculable sales statistic during the nineties and early 2000s.

Dodge is rebooting and revamping its mid-size contender for 2011, and just like its Jeep cousin, the Grand Cherokee, the Durango is completely new. In many ways, this Dodge represents the first in a string of new products designed to shed the Ram brand's poor reputation for out-dated styling and technology. You can't glean too much from pictures and descriptions, but on paper this well balanced ute might be a winner. It looks pretty good as well.

Slab sided, proportional body panels converge on muscular headlights and a complicated chrome grille. This grille, I'm sure, can be ordered in flat-black. It marks the first time I have been taken aback by a Chrysler design that wasn't packing ten cylinders. The Durango is attractive in the way Gina Gershon is attractive; rough around the edges but still a solid knock-out. Some of that appeal may come from Gina's ability to knock you out, and that trait may also extend to the Durango. This is an impressive machine, on the outside. Like any good Corvette, the worst part about Chrysler products is their cheapo, Little Tykes interiors . . . how does the Durango look from the driver’s seat?


Ferrari Opens Investigation On 458 Italia Fires

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:37PM | By: Chris Weiss


Ferrari Opens Investigation On 458 Italia Fires  test 1-1

Much to the delight of fans of pictures of flaming, sizzling supercars (and the blogs that post them), Ferrari 458 Italia models have been burning up like dry brush in the middle of July since the car went on sale earlier this year. In fact, in the few short months that it's been on the road, at least 10 fires and accidents involving the 458 have been reported from California to London to China. Responding to these incidents, Ferrari has opened an official investigation.

Pictures of burning 458s have been popping up regularly on sites like Wrecked Exotics since June. Several of the models involved have been burned into a pile of rims and charred metal, resembling nothing of their former beauty. Incidents have been reported across the U.S. and Europe, with specific locations including London, Paris, China, Switzerland and California. According to Wrecked Exotics, there were 9 incidents of crashes and fires in 458 models over a time period of just 90 days--making for one per 10 days. Overall, the BBC reports that there have been 10 crashes or fires in just three months.

Ferrari released a statement earlier this week indicating that it is opening up an investigation to see if the fires are caused by driver error or a manufacturing defect. Given the sheer number of problems in such a rare car, it'd be surprising if it wasn't the latter.


Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius

On: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 2:31PM | By: Chris Weiss


Toyota To Offer Optional Noise Maker On Prius  test 1-1

There has long been a public push for some sort of noise-making system on hybrids that will warn outsiders of the cars' presence, and an NHTSA study last fall that found that hybrids run into more pedestrians and cyclists than gas vehicles only intensified that push. The National Federation of the Blind has been a strong voice in the push for noise-making technology, and has worked with GM toward pedestrian warning systems for the upcoming Chevy Volt. The two major auto industry groups: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturer have also called for legislation that would require manufacturers to outfit hybrids and electric vehicles with some for of audible warning system.

Well, Toyota has answered the bell and announced that it will be offering a noisemaker for Prius models beginning at the end of this month. The system will initially be available only in Japan, and arises out of work with the country's Committee for the Consideration of Countermeasures Regarding Quiet Hybrid and Other Vehicles.

Toyota described the new system in a release: "“The onboard device automatically emits a synthesized sound of an electric motor when the Prius is operating as an electric vehicle at speeds up to approximately 25 km/h. The sound — aimed to alert but not annoy — rises and falls in pitch relative to the vehicle’s speed, thus helping indicate the vehicle’s proximity and movement.”


Honda Recalls Nearly 400,000 U.S. Vehicles For Ignition Issue

On: Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 4:40PM | By: Chris Weiss


Honda Recalls Nearly 400,000 U.S. Vehicles For Ignition Issue test 1-1

In a recall notice posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website yesterday, Honda announced that it will be recalling 384,220 vehicles in the United States due to possible ignition interlock failure. What could be termed "unintended rolling," can result if the interlock system fails. The new recall brings the total number of Honda vehicles recalled for similar issues since 2003 up to 1.4 million. The latest recall relates to different specific parts of the ignition than past recalls, however.


 

End Is In Sight: Toyota 80 Percent Finished With Acceleration Recalls

On: Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 9:27AM | By: Chris Weiss


End Is In Sight: Toyota 80 Percent Finished With Acceleration Recalls test 1-1

In the 2010 automotive landscape, the words "Toyota" and "recall" have taken on a near synonymous relationship that the Japanese automaker undoubtedly can't wait to shed. According to a company executive, Toyota is nearly ready to start fresh. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting warmer and brighter, and Toyota is more than 3/4 of the way toward finishing its unintended acceleration recalls.

Steve St. Angelo, Toyota's chief quality officer in the United States, recently announced that Toyota has repaired 80 percent of the vehicles involved in its 2009-2010 unintended acceleration recalls. By his reckoning, that puts it ahead of the average in terms of the percentage of cars repaired under a given recall. The automaker is focusing its attention on following up with the remaining 20 percent to ensure that all vehicles are safe to drive.

Toyota's acceleration issues began last September when it announced a recall involving 3.8 million U.S. vehicles. This initial recall was for floor mats that Toyota cited as the cause of unintended acceleration. Less than four months later, Toyota announced another major recall affecting 2.3 million U.S. vehicles, also for unintended acceleration. However, floor mats were no longer to blame, and the second recall related to a sticking accelerator pedal. In all, Toyota has recalled over 11 million vehicles worldwide in the past year.

During its recall crisis, Toyota has come under scrutiny from every angle—from U.S. government investigations to media reports to lawsuits and independent analysis. In April, after an extensive investigation, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration fined Toyota $16.4 million—the maximum that it's allowed to issue under law—for its delayed actions in the recalls. The NHTSA's investigation remains ongoing.


Consumer Reports Designates Best Cars For Teenagers and Senior Citizens

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 11:11AM | By: Chris Weiss


Consumer Reports Designates Best Cars For Teenagers and Senior Citizens test 1-1

With an eye toward teenagers and young adults going back to college and high school, Consumer Reports has released its short list of the best vehicles for these young drivers. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the organization has also released a list of suggested vehicles for senior citizens. The cars on the lists include advanced safety, handling and design features that make them particularly beneficial to the individual groups. The lists cover segments including midsize sedan, minivan, small sedan and small SUV.

CR recommends that parents looking to outfit their children with new or used vehicles in time for college look carefully at safety features like electronic stability control and crash test results. The organization also warned of blindly selecting a large SUV, car or truck, thinking that it will automatically be safer than smaller cars.

David Champion, the senior director of CR's Automotive Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut explained: "Often parents think that putting their child in the biggest car is the safest thing they can do, but that's not so. Teens are the most inexperienced drivers on the road, so you want to make sure they're driving something that handles well, is agile and has as many safety features as possible--especially electronic stability control."


Cadillac Escalade Tops Most Stolen Vehicle List (Again)

On: Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 9:42AM | By: Chris Weiss


Cadillac Escalade Tops Most Stolen Vehicle List (Again)  test 1-1

Popular culture is oh so quick to romanticize the high life behind rolling on chromed-out 24s in your Escalade, but it leaves out a glaring piece of the puzzle: the part about when you finish up sippin' Cris at the club and come out to find an empty parking spot where you're freshly washed Escalade was once resting. According to a new report by the Highway Data Loss Institute, Cadillac's biggest model is the most stolen vehicle on the road. In fact, the Escalade has topped the HDLI's list 6 out of the past 7 times, making it one of the more fleeting status symbols of modern times.

The HDLI's numbers are derived from the frequency of insurance theft claims and the size of payouts over the last three model years, so they don't necessarily include all cases of theft. The 2007 to 2009 Escalade was followed by the Ford F-250, Infiniti G37 and Dodge Charger with HEMI engine. Those four models averaged about 3 to 5 times more thefts than the average vehicle.

The vehicle group that experienced the most thefts according to the report is the extra large luxury SUV segment. Given that the HDLI's report takes financial losses into account, it's not surprising that large, expensive SUVs would be at the top.

Similarly, some cars made the list not so much for the fact that they were likely to get stolen but because the claims were significantly higher than average. The fifth car on the list was the Corvette Z06, which averaged a claim of $41,229--more than four times that of the Dodge Charger with Hemi.


VW Passat is Under Investigation Again for Engine Compartment Fires

On: Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 10:41AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


 VW Passat is Under Investigation Again for Engine Compartment Fires test 1-1

In recent automotive news, Volkswagen is under investigation again (for the second time in the past 3 years) as a result of multiple reports of engines that actually caught fire secondary to ignition-coil failures in 2002 through 2003 Passat models. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a new preliminary investigation has been opened by federal regulators in order to find any evidence that a formal investigation is indicated.

There are 16 reports by Passat owners stating that the vehicle hesitated or lost power when the ignition coil (which had been replaced more than once) failed, and the NHTSA reports that there may be as many as 199,000 total vehicles involved.  

One complaint stated: “While driving approximately 45 MPH, the vehicle began shaking violently and shut down in the middle of an intersection. The vehicle then skidded into an intersection and almost struck a child,” referring to a 2002 VW Passat.

“We take all of these investigations seriously, and we're working with NHTSA on this matter,” company spokesman Kerry Christopher said.

In the past an investigation of 2007-2008 Passat was conducted by federal regulators after owners lodged complaints about 78 crashes that may have been linked to the engine coil failures, over 400,000 Passats were recalled, and the investigation was closed after finding a damaged underbody heat shield that “may contact the exhaust system which can result in a vehicle fire.”  Other possible issues that were identified were leaky fuel lines or fuel tank ventilation valves that had the potential to cause fires.


NHTSA Introduces More Rigorous Crash Testing

On: Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 4:01PM | By: Chris Weiss


NHTSA Introduces More Rigorous Crash Testing  test 1-1

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has announced that it will begin more rigorous crash testing on 2011 vehicles. The agency plans to test 55 2011 cars and trucks under a tougher five-star rating system. The new system will include new tests and will present consumers with a single overall safety score for each vehicle for the first time. Information about vehicle safety features, like collision warning systems, will also be included as part of the new rating system.

In a press release, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said of the changes: “For over 30 years, NHTSA’s 5-star crash testing program has been the gold standard for consumers looking to buy the safest cars on the market for their families. Now, this great program has gotten even better by making it easier to compare the safety performance of vehicles not only in terms of crash survivability, but in terms of avoiding crashes in the first place.”


Recall Woes: Toyota Steering Issue

On: Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 10:34AM | By: John Welch


2003 Toyota Avalon test 2

The new Toyota Avalon is sort of cool. Considering its front-drive, luxo-barge nature, I'm surprised to hear myself say such a thing. Or 'type' of thing as the case may be. The Avalon is equipped with a stout V6, LED lighting, and the most engaging "MadMen60'sPopCulturePanAmStewardessDrivingIsAsEasyAsFlying" ad campaign. I'm becoming afraid that I may like the Avalon solely because of the 60s air-travel themed marketing. Seriously, these commercials are very well done.

Too bad the older Avalon models have quality concerns, specifically a steering issue involving much more then crappy electronic power steering programming. Toyota will add 373,000 Avalon sedans, model years 2000 through 2004 to its growing list of recalled vehicles. According to a statement released by Toyota, the steering lock bar in these vehicles could break under certain conditions. How hard are blue-hairs driving these cars exactly? Of all the things that fall apart on cars; I don't think I have ever heard of a steering lock bar malfunctioning. Which is to say, NO ONE has reported any sort of injury because of this issue. After how poorly we Americans handled the issue of unintended acceleration (to be clear: 80% of those cases boiled down to some yokel mashing the gas pedal instead of the brake. Toyota can't make you pay attention while driving, Dummies, and shouldn't be blamed for injuries or deaths it did NOT cause . . .) Toyota is learning from its mistakes and nipping this issue in the bud . . .  instead of covering it up for six years (lookin' at you, Inaba!)

You didn't think I would crack on the American public without jabbing Toyota a little bit, did you? As of 10:28 a.m. EST there is no offcial NHTSA release regarding this issue; The 'Shopper will post it and recalls involving Volvo, Subaru, BMW, and Nissan when the actual Avalon report is released . . .


Ford Provides Video Details Of New Explorer Off-Road and Safety Features

On: Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 5:05PM | By: Chris Weiss


Ford Provides Video Details Of New Explorer Off-Road and Safety Features  test 1-1

A day after its big, hyped-up Facebook reveal, the 2011 Ford Explorer has shown up in a series of videos. Ford uses the short clips to provide some hands-on footage of new features of the Explorer, such as the 4WD system's terrain management and Trailer Sway Control. Ford's photo and video team must have made a killing off of the new crossover.

The 2011 Explorer has been a big story this spring and summer, and continues capturing headlines. Ford introduced the newly ordained crossover on Monday, and followed up with a few videos that provide a closer look at the Explorer in action. More specifically,  the videos help to show consumers exactly what the Explorer's new technological features can do on road and off.