2013 In Automotive Recalls: Electrical Issues, Airbag Woes And Spiders Featured Prominently This Year, While Toyota Faced The Most Problems

 @angeloyoung_a.young@ibtimes.com
on December 27 2013 1:40 PM
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The steering wheel of a Toyota car which contains an airbag is pictured in Vienna April 11, 2013. Four Japanese automakers including Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co are recalling a total of around 3.4 million vehicles worldwide due to defective airbags supplied by Takata Corp, the companies said. Reuters

With just four days left until the end of the year, General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) and Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203) are likely to be the last automakers to announce major recalls in 2013.

The Japanese automaker announced Friday it was recalling 400,000 of its vehicles in Saudi Arabia related to an ongoing global issue with unintended acceleration in some of its cars manufactured from late 2009 to early 2011. GM's recall, also announced Friday, pertains to vehicles manufactured and sold in China with GM’s biggest local partner, SAIC Motor Corp. That recall affects about 1.5 million Buick and Chevrolet autos that might have faulty fuel-pump brackets that could lead to fuel leakage over time. 

This week's recalls cap an eventful year in automotive defects, especially for Toyota and Chrysler Group LLC – the former because 2013 seemed like a continuation of Toyota’s woes from the previous year, and the latter because Chrysler’s key Jeep brand and its best-selling Ram 1500 pickup were recall targets.

Whether 2013 recalls in the U.S. will top 2012’s numbers is yet unknown – the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won’t release annual numbers for the U.S. until next month. In 2012, 16.2 million cars were recalled in the U.S., up from 15.5 million the year before. That sounds like a lot, but it’s less than half of the 30.8 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. in 2004, four years after the U.S. passed the TREAD Act in November 2001, requiring automakers to be significantly more proactive in identifying problems before consumers or regulators complain. The result? About two-thirds of all recalls last year were voluntary and initiated by automakers.

In 2012 Honda, the world’s seventh-largest automaker by sales volume, recalled 3.9 million vehicles worldwide, second only to Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203), the world’s top automaker, which recalled 5.3 million.

Here are the major automotive recalls (affecting more than 200,000 vehicles) for 2013:

JANUARY

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (TYO:7270), which owns Subaru, said more than 630,000 Forester SUVs, Legacy sedans, Outback wagons and Tribeca SUVs made between 2006 and 2012 (the affected years vary depending on the models) were recalled to fix an issue with the vehicles’ puddle lights that shine down from the bottom of the doors to illuminate the ground when occupants exit or enter vehicles at night. The lights posed a risk of short-circuiting, potentially creating enough heat to melt the plastic housing and cause smoke or fire.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (TYO:7267) recalled about 777,000 Pilot crossovers and Odyssey minivans in North America made between 2009 and 2013, including about 29,000 of the vehicles in Canada, due to missing rivets in the driver’s side airbag component. The missing rivets could cause the airbag to improperly deploy. Honda has been grappling with airbag issues in recent years.  

Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203) announced a recall thanks to airbag and wiper problems, affecting almost 1.3 million vehicles worldwide. About 750,000 Corollas in the U.S. were part of the recall to fix airbags that could deploy unexpectedly. Corolla in Japan, Mexico and Canada were also affected. The company also announced a recall of about 385,000 Lexus IS compact luxury sedans in the U.S. to repair faulty wipers.

FEBRUARY

Chrysler Group LLC, owned by Italy’s Fiat SpA (BIT:F), recalled over 280,000 of its vehicles in the U.S., mostly pickups and SUVs, for a faulty rear-axle component that could malfunction and cause drivers to lose control. The bulk of the recall affects 278,222 Ram 1500 and Dodge Dakota pickup trucks and Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs made between 2009 and 2012. The recall is the result of a missing adhesive patch that keeps the rear axle pinion in place. Without it, the pinion could come loose, causing the axle to lock up while the vehicle is in motion.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (FRA:BMW) announced a recall of about 569,000 of its 3-Series and 1-Series vehicles (sedans, wagons, convertibles and coupes) and its Z4 sports coupe in the U.S. and Canada to fix a battery cable connection that could cause the car to stall unexpectedly.

MARCH

Honda Motor Co. responded after an irate customer complained about unexpected autonomous braking in her 2005 Pilot crossover. It announced a recall about 250,000 Pilots, Acura MDXs and Acura RLs worldwide to repair problems with Honda’s stability control systems. Honda said the malfunction that could cause unexpected rapid deceleration in affected vehicles was due to a damaged electrical capacitor.

Volkswagen AG (FRA:VOW) announced a recall that affected as many as 680,000 of its vehicles in China after the country’s consumer protection agency said the German automaker’s DSG gearbox system that the state broadcaster CCTV said was responsible for loss of power and unexpected acceleration. Volkswagen used the gearbox system in the Bora, Golkf, Passat and Lavida models manufactured in China.

APRIL

Toyota, Honda, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (TYO:7201) and Mazda Motor Corp. (TYO:7261) – By April, Japanese automakers announced or expanded recalls related to faulty airbags made by Takata Corp. This global recall underscored the reliance on a single supplier by multiple automakers, which can result in recalls across the sector. The faulty airbags were made between 2000 and 2002 at a Takata facility in Mexico. About 3.4 million vehicles in all are affected, including popular models like Toyota’s Camry sedan, Honda’s CRV crossover, Nissan’s Altima sedan and the Mazda3 compact. Airbag problems have plagued Honda in particular for years, with the automaker adding some 405,000 vehicles to the airbag-problem list in September.

South Korean duo Hyundai Motor Co. (KRX:005380) and Kia Motors Corp. – The relationship between the sibling auto companies that share product development and marketing was highlighted by the recall of 1.6 million vehicles for brake-lamp defects that send mixed signals to the vehicles’ electronic controls. Consequences from the defect include the gear selector getting stuck in park, the push-button engine ignition feature being disabled and interference with the car’s cruise control. The recall affects many popular Hyundai and Kia models made between 2007 and 2011.

MAY

Chrysler announced three recalls of about 300,000 Jeeps and Rams to correct three problems: an electronic failure that can cause vehicles to inadvertently slip into neutral and roll away on inclines; a defect that could cause failed deployment of the driver-side airbag; and a flaw that could disable the windshield defrost and defogging systems. The recalls cover the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Jeep Commander, the Jeep Wrangler and the Ram 1500 pickup truck made between 2004 and 2012, depending on the model and the problem.

JUNE

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) announced a recall of more than 465,000 vehicles worldwide to fix problems with fuel delivery, engine block heaters and steering gears. The recall was particularly biting since it affected cars made in the 2013 model year, including the Ford Fusion sedan and the Lincoln MKT crossover. The Explorer SUV, the Taurus sedan, the Flex crossover and the Police Interceptor.  

Chrysler relented to pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government’s car-safety watchdog, and agreed to recall 2.7 million Jeeps because the location of the rear fuel tank in Jeep Grand Cherokees (model years 1992 to 2004) and Jeep Libertys (model years 2002 to 2007).

JULY

Chrysler said it was recalling about 840,000 vehicles, mostly in the U.S. The recall includes about 500,000 Chrysler cars and SUVs that might have improperly installed head rests. Another approximately 282,000 Chrysler minivans could have faulty airbags.

AUGUST

Hyundai said it was recalling about 240,000 Sonata and Azera sedans in the U.S. that could face inordinate corrosion problems (from road salt used in colder states in the winter to melt snow and ice) that could adversely affect rear-wheel alignment over time. The recall affects Sonatas made from March 2005 and January 2010 and Azeras made from September 2005 and November 2010.

General Motors said it was recalling almost 300,000 Chevy Cruze cars from the 2011 and 2012 model years that have six-speed automatic transmissions and 1.4 liter turbo engines. The global recall is aimed at fixing a problem where the brakes can lose their effectiveness forcing drivers to unexpectedly need to press down harder to stop the vehicles.  

SEPTEMBER

Ford recalled about 370,000 vehicles due to corrosion problems that could cause potentially dangerous loos of steering. The recalled Ford vehicles include 2005 to 2011 Ford Crown Victoria models, 2005 to 2011 Lincoln Town Car models and 2005 to 2011 Mercury Grand Marquis models.

Toyota announced two recalls affecting its Highlander Hybrid SUV (made between 2006 and 2010) and Lexus IS compact executive car and Lexus GS full sized luxury car (made between 2006 and 2008). The recall covers 369,000 vehicles worldwide, including about 235,000 in the U.S., about 74,000 in Japan and 37,500 in Europe. In the Highlander Hybrid transistors can overheat causing the vehicle to stall unexpectedly. A similar result can happen in the affected Lexuses due to the possibility of failure in the variable valve timing control device.

Two other Toyota recalls announced in September: the company warned that about 615,000 Sienna minivans in the U.S. slip out of park and roll away on includes. The recall affects minivans in the 2004 to 2009 model years. Toyota also announced a recall of more than one million of tis vehicles in the U.S. from the 2006-to-2011 model years due to rear-suspension problems that could result in crashes. The recall was particularly painful because it was the second of its kind affecting the same cars: the RAV4 crossover, the Lexus HS hybrid entry-level luxury car.

Nissan said two of its Infiniti models, the M35 and the M45 in model years between 2005 and 2011, could stall unexpectedly while the vehicle is coming to a stop or idling, thanks to a potential electronics malfunction. The recall affects 161,000 vehicles outside of Japan. The recall is part of a larger one affecting an additional 765,000 of Nissan’s vehicles in Japan.

OCTOBER

Toyota announced a recall of about 885,000 units worldwide over the possibility of airbag-deployment failure – either by not deploying or by deploying unexpectedly. In what was undoubtedly the weirdest recall of the year, the cause of the problem is attributed to spiders that can get into the air conditioner condenser housing and clog up condensation tubes with their webs, causing water to spill onto the electronics of the airbag control module. Toyota said the fix involves simply adding a sealant and a cover to the condenser housing. Most of the affected vehicles were sold in the U.S. The recall covers the Camry sedan and hybrid, the Avalon sedan and the Venza crossover from the 2012 and 2013 model years.

NOVEMBER

Volkswagen said it was recalling about 2.6 million vehicles worldwide for lighting and transmission problems, including 62,000 Tiguan SUVs in the U.S. from the 2009-2011 model years whose exterior lights could turn off unexpectedly. The bulk of the recall affects vehicles using Volkswagen’s DQ200 direct shift automatic transmission that can cause loss of power to the front tires thanks to the type of fluid used in the gearbox. The recall is linked to Volkswagen’s problems in China announced in March.

DECEMBER

General Motors and its primary partner in China, SAIC Motor Corp (China’s top automaker) announced a recall of nearly 1.5 million Buick and Chevrolet models due to faulty fuel pump brackets. The recall includes the Chinese-made Chevrolet Sail compact that’s exported to emerging markets.

Toyota annouced it would recall more than 400,000 units in Saudi Arabia over concerns the cars could unexpectedly accelerate. Through its local distributor Abdul Lateef Jameel Co. Toyota will install brake override systems on the affected cars, seven Toyota branded models and two Lexus models. 

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