Tuesday

Ford SUV Windshields Being Investigated

Ford Motor Co. is facing an intense federal government safety investigation and the potential recall of 653,471 Expedition sport utility vehicles because leaky windshields can cause electrical failures for parts such as headlights and wipers.

The inquiry covers 1999 through 2001 models, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its Web site. The action is based on consumer complaints to the agency and 1,464 complaints made to Ford itself.

The investigation, which began in June, was raised to an "engineering analysis," the Washington-based agency said. Last June Ford was instructed to turn over numerous internal documents relating to the electrical failure and leaky windshield issues. Seven in 10 investigations that reach that level result in recalls, according to NHTSA figures.

If you've got a leaky SUV windshield, promptly complain to your dealer. Don't wait until you are driving down the road at night and your headlights go out, and then remember that you meant to make that call!

Friday

Toyota Calls Back Thousands of Prius Cars for Stalling

Got a Prius? Be careful ...

On October 13, 2005 Toyota Motor Corp. announced that it was in the process of notifying 75,000 Prius owners in the United States of a software glitch that can cause the hybrid cars to suddenly stall or shut down with little or no warning at all. It usually happens at between 35 and 65 mph.

For months Toyota has been investigating reports of stalling in the 2004 and 2005 Prius models. Some of the malfunctioning Prius cars had to be towed to the shop before they could even be restarted. Toyota had previously been blaming problems on a "software glitch" in the Prius computer system.

The problem may cause warning lights in the vehicles to come on prompting the Prius to enter a fail-safe mode that will cause the gasoline engines to stall. Toyota says that the electric motor in the vehicles have sufficient power to allow the driver to pull the vehicle over and away from traffic.

The vehicles involved in the Toyota service action are from the 2004 and 2005 model years. Toyota sold 53,991 of the Prius in 2004 and 81,042 so far this year. Toyota says this is not a recall but is sending letters to Prius owners asking that they take the cars to a dealership for free (of course) repairs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into the problem after receiving a number of complaints about the hybrid vehicles stalling or stopping unexpectedly, often on highways.

Toyota identified a "programming error" in the computer systems of 23,900 Prius cars last year and sent owners a service notice advising them to bring the cars into dealers for an hour-long software "upgrade."

Wednesday

Ford Makes Money from Tire Recalls

Tough times at Ford aren't quite as tough as you may think, and factory recalls don't always cost as much as they say either.

Bridgestone-Firestone has agreed to pay $240,000,000 (that's right, nearly a quarter of a Billion dollars) to Ford in order to settle liability claims by Ford over the recall of defective tires in year 2000 and 2001 that were linked to deadly highway accidents.

'The Bridgestone group benefits from the certainty that a settlement brings,' said Shoshi Arakawa, executive vice president, international operations of Bridgestone Corp. 'It is clear that the best option for the future of the North American tire business was to explore whether an acceptable settlement could be reached which would allow Firestone to put this matter behind it and focus on its future business opportunities. This settlement achieves that goal.' That's some pretty nicely worded spin language.

Ford replaced about 30 million Firestone tires in 2000 and 2001 after US federal safety regulators documented hundreds of accidents involving tire tread seperation in accidents involving Ford's SUV Explorer sport utility vehicle. An official investigation linked 271 fatalities and 800 accidents to events in which Explorers tipped over after parts of their Firestone tires peeled off at high speeds. Ford and Bridgestone blamed each other for the accidents, but US investigators concluded the accidents were mainly the result of flaws in the tires.

Ford paid money out when it did the recall, sure, but let's not forget that they got money back, too.

Recalls don't really cost as much as some manufacturers claim because they often can recover that money from the supplier who sold them the bad parts in the first place. That's only fair. It's also only fair that Ford live up to its first and primary responsibility to the consumer in the first place, without denying a claim by trying to blame someone else for the cars that it builds.