NHTSA Wobbles to Congress on Shaky Jeep Issue

The YouTube videos say it all: a Jeep Wrangler vibrating so intensely, a bystander can see the front wheels plainly shimmy. Inside the vehicle, another Wrangler owner demonstrates the steering wheel shaking with such force that the driver has a death grip to keep control of the vehicle, but don’t worry, NHTSA told two U.S. Reps., it’s not a safety hazard.

Hapless Wrangler owners have dubbed it the “Jeep Death Wobble,” and some journalists who have reported on the phenomenon have been more than happy to give this snappy name some play. The problem caught the attention of Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and California Rep Anna Eshoo, who last week released a letter they wrote to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, urging the company to do more to educate consumers and dealers alike about the problem and its remedies:

“Chrysler should undertake an outreach campaign to its customers, such as a Customer Satisfaction Campaign, to notify Jeep owners of the risk of the "wobble" condition, also described as a "vibration" or "shimmy," and the possible methods for repairing and preventing the problem. Such a notification could alert owners to the existence of Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) that advise dealers how to diagnose and make repairs to address this issue, emphasize the degree to which aftermarket modifications might affect or exacerbate the wobble problem, and advise customers how to stop the wobble if they experience it while driving.”

Apparently the five Technical Service Bulletins that Chrysler already issued relating to the problem were not enough. And apparently, Waxman and Eshoo turned to Chrysler, because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had already turned them away.

SRS Releases Update Report: Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Eight months have passed since Congress called out NHTSA and Toyota for failing to address Sudden Unintended Acceleration. The agency and the automaker claim they've learned nothing new about the problem, but there's nothing wrong with our learning curve. Behind the barrage of PR are all those niggling little facts, and once again, SRS has assembled them into the go-to Toyota SUA reference guide.

Toyota Washington Watch

We sat through the National Academies of Science first public meeting to tackle the Electronic Vehicle Controls and Unintended Acceleration Study, a NHTSA-sponsored effort to look broadly at the issue, and we are happy to see that the agency has brought in some outside expertise.

This is truly an opportunity for the regulators to advance their knowledge base beyond the era of the mechanical automobile and into the age of automotive electronics, rapidly migrating from a vehicle’s entertainment center to its most basic functions of acceleration, braking and steering. It is critical to future policy setting and defect analysis.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010: A Crisis Well Spent

Congress has never been one to let a motor vehicle crisis go to waste, and the Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration debacle has been no exception. Hearings before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has revealed some distressing regulatory gaps – such as a federal motor vehicle safety standard for accelerator controls that was established in 1972 and has never been amended to account for electronic throttles.

Toyota’s Credibility Gap Assumes Grand Canyon Proportions

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Sub-committee rendered its verdict after conducting interviews with key personnel from Toyota and Exponent and reviewing some 100,000 Toyota- and NHTSA-produced documents about the much-heralded “exhaustive” efforts to determine if there was a connection between Sudden Unintended Acceleration and Toyota’s electronic throttle control system: Toyota lied.

While the committee and sub-committee chairs, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) respectively, did not state things quite so baldly, they came darned close in their opening statements:

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