The End of the World as We Know it

The very best consumer products complaints database would be one which allows manufacturers to thoroughly vet each complaint – no matter how many years it takes; one that would be accessible to the public, unless that member of the public is a plaintiff’s attorney or a reporter; or one that prohibits complaints that might tarnish an industry’s reputation. In other words, a database that preserves the status quo.

We'll Just have to Work Harder...

Just when we thought we’d stirred the pot but good, Jim Smith comes along to set us straight. In a scathing Tire Review editorial, editor Smith takes aim at industry leader, the Rubber Manufacturers Association for leading the retail side of the industry off a cliff on two important issues: tire fuel efficiency and tire age.

Toyota and NHTSA Issue Urgent Safety Alert to Remove Floor Mats: Will it Stop Sudden Acceleration?

Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have issued urgent consumer safety alerts to owners of a wide range of Toyota and Lexus models to take out any removable driver's floor mat and NOT replace it with any other floor mat.

“Recent events have prompted Toyota to take a closer look at the potential for an accelerator pedal to get stuck in the full open position due to an unsecured or incompatible driver's floor mat,” Toyota said in a press release.

The advisory follows an August 28 crash in Santee, California that killed four. California Highway Patrolman Mark Saylor was at the wheel of a 2009 Lexus ES350, when the vehicle apparently suffered an sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) event. Some investigators suspect that the floor mat may have entrapped the pedal.

The affected models are:

  • 2007 – 2010 Camry
  • 2005 – 2010 Avalon
  • 2004 – 2009 Prius
  • 2005 – 2010 Tacoma
  • 2007 – 2010 Tundra
  • 2007 – 2010 ES350
  • 2006 – 2010 IS250 and IS350

“Have all-weather floor mats caused unintended acceleration in some Toyota and Lexus models?  Probably.  But is it the only cause in these vehicles?  I don’t think so” says Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies.  “Reviewing complaint data, interviewing owners, and examining evidence from SUA incidents leads us to conclude there is more going on here.  This not likely the last we’ve heard of Toyota and Lexus sudden acceleration.”

Chrysler Accepts Future Liability; Current Claimants Still have no Recourse

Two-and-a-half months after Chrysler took a pass on accepting responsibility for injuries and deaths caused by its defective products via an expedited bankruptcy plan, the automaker announced that it was going to accept future liability claims for vehicles made by the old company.

It would be heartwarming to imagine a corporate come-to-Jesus moment, but cooler calculations apparently prompted this new tack, including increased pressure from injury victims, Congress, and the threat of state-by-state litigation into the legality of wiping away future claimant’s rights.

GM / Chrysler Bankruptcies: What’s In What’s Out

The terms of the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies have created arbitrary and artificial classes of claimants. Here are the current parameters for liability:

Chrysler: Date of Bankruptcy Exit: June 10

Chrysler, GM Bankruptcies Concluded, Defect Victims Cheated

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Obama administration’s drive-by bankruptcies have left the victims of defect-related crashes to eat their dust, but consumer advocates are turning to other strategies to force Chrysler and General Motors to do the right thing.

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, along with Consumer Action, Center for Auto Safety, Center for Justice & Democracy, and National Consumers League, have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to require labels informing buyers of a used Chrysler’s unique liabilities. The label they’ve suggested goes like this:

“WARNING    This vehicle was produced prior to the date when the Chrysler bankruptcy was approved. If you buy this vehicle and are injured or killed, even if your injuries were caused by the manufacturer, you or your survivors will not be able to recover your losses by taking action against the manufacturer. If your passengers are injured or killed, even if their injuries were caused by the manufacturer, they and their survivors will not be able to recover their losses by taking action against the manufacturer.”

Stick a Fork in It

Barring a successful appeal by some crash victims, the General Motors bankruptcy is a done deal. Over the Independence Day holiday weekend, Judge Robert E. Gerber of the federal bankruptcy court in Manhattan declared independence for General Motors from all previous liabilities. On Sunday, Gerber approved the sale of the automaker’s assets to a consortium consisting of the governments of the U.S. and Canada and a health trust owned by the United Auto Workers union. The parties were racing to beat the Obama administration’s clock of a bankruptcy and sale by Friday. The deal is expected to close on Thursday, after the judge’s four-day stay runs out.

Caveat Emptor

Pity the poor used Chrysler dealer trying to peddle some pre-bankruptcy bargain with this sticker:

“WARNING    This vehicle was produced prior to the date when the Chrysler bankruptcy was approved. If you buy this vehicle and are injured or killed, even if your injuries were caused by the manufacturer, you or your survivors will not be able to recover your losses by taking action against the manufacturer. If your passengers are injured or killed, even if their injuries were caused by the manufacturer, they and their survivors will not be able to recover their losses by taking action against the manufacturer.”

GM's End Run Starts to Falter

Opponents of Chrysler and General Motors’ bid to play the get-out-of-liability-free card scored a partial victory Friday. GM agreed to amend the terms of its bankruptcy to assume liability for future death and injury claims. The deal was reportedly hammered out late Friday between the Treasury’s auto task force, GM and more than a dozen states attorneys general.

Why the Problems Won’t Go Away When the Old Chrysler and GM Do

About 3,400 individuals will die or be injured in a General Motors or Chrysler vehicle due to an automotive defect in the companies’ first year post-bankruptcy, according to a new analysis conducted by Safety Research & Strategies

SRS has released its report, Public Safety at Risk: Bankruptcies Leave Legacy of Defects, Injuries and Deaths as part of its ongoing efforts to highlight the plight of the victims of the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies. Under the terms of each automaker’s transition from their old, debt-burdened incarnations to their liability-free future entities, hundreds of pending death and injury claims will be eliminated. But the latent – and in some cases, well-known, but never resolved – automotive defects will continue to manifest themselves in the 40 million GM and Chrysler vehicles built before Chapter 11, which remain in the U.S. fleet.

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