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Fiat-Chrysler Fine


Airbag recall


Trek Recall


NHTSA ignored problems


Car Rear-view Cameras



Consumer Issues: Safety

Defective products we buy can be deadly.

Sometimes the defects are caused by design errors, sometimes by by manufacturing process. And sometimes the maker of the product is aware of the problem but decides to remain silent - or even deny it.

One role of government is to protect consumers by identifying dangerous products, ensuring they are no longer sold, and aiding those who already have bought the product.

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Fiat-Chrysler fined $105 million for 11 million mishandled recalls

2015-Jul-29By: Barry Shatzman

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has imposed record fines against Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles for recall violations.

As part of the agreement, the automaker admitted to violating federal rules about recalls affecting 11 million vehicles. Violations included not notifying consumers, dealers, and regulators.

Recalls included more than 500,000 vehicles with faulty suspensions that could cause the driver to lose control. Owners of these vehicles will be allowed to sell them back to Fiat-Chrysler. Owners of more than a million Jeeps that are prone to catch fire will be able to trade them in for above the market value or receive compensation if they get their vehicle repaired.

The company will notify affected owners.

Fiat-Chrysler will pay a $70 million cash fine. They also must spend at least $20 million to remedy the violations. If more violations are discovered, the company could be liable for an additional $15 million in fines.

The NHTSA may impose a fine of $35 million for any recall that is not completed in a timely manner.

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Does your car have killer airbags? What you should know.

2015-May-19By: Barry Shatzman

More than 10 percent of all cars in the U.S. are being recalled because their airbags could explode when they deploy - and blast shrapnel throughout the car.

The defective airbags were made by the Japanese company Takata. This is the first time a recall has been directed toward the maker of a particular part. Recalls in the past have been directed toward car manufacturers.

The problem has been known since at least 2000. The first death related to the defective airbags is believed to have occurred in 2009. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation into the airbags in 2009, but ended it after 6 months saying there was "insufficient evidence".

Cars from virtually every manufacturer are affected, though most manufacturers are saying they still are determining which cars should be included and what action to take.

If your car does have one of the defective airbags, it still might be years before it's made safe. For one thing, Takada and car manufacturers haven't fully identified all of the cars that are affected. For another, it will take time before tens of millions of replacement airbags can be produced.

And there's one more thing. Takata still has not determined exactly what's causing the problem. So nobody is saying for sure that the new airbags won't have a similar issue.

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Trek recalling almost a million bikes after serious injuries

2015-Apr-21By: Barry Shatzman

Bicycle maker Trek is recalling 900,000 bikes in the United States made since September 1999. The front wheel release lever can come into contact with the disc brake, causing the bike to stop suddenly or the wheel to come off.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) reports at least three serious injuries caused by this problem - including one rider becoming permanently paralyzed.

The bikes being recalled are those in which the lever can open more than 180 degrees. Models affected are years 2000 - 2015, and the bikes ranged in cost from $480 to $1,650.

The CSPC is urging those with affected bikes to not ride them until they are repaired. Owners can contact an authorized Trek retailer for a free repair.

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Car safety agency routinely ingored deadly problems

2014-Sep-14By: Barry Shatzman

The federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of automobiles has failed to fully investigate and act on major safety issues, the New York Times has reported.

Problems have included rollovers in Ford Explorers, ignition defects in General Motors cars, sudden acceleration in Toyotas, fires in Jeep fuel tanks, and air bag ruptures. They have been linked to several deaths.

In spite of that, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) routinely ignored both its own data and complaints from car owners. The agency - which also rates the safety of cars - awarded some of these cars its highest safety rating.

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Cars will have rear-view cameras by 2018

2014-Mar-31  (Updated: 2014-Nov-27)By: Barry Shatzman

By 2018 all new cars will come equipped with cameras that allow the driver to see what is behind the car, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on March 31.

The intent of the regulation is to save lives. About 15,000 people are injured each year by a car backing into them - more than 200 fatally. About half of those are children under 5 years old and adults over 70, according to the NHTSA. The agency estimates that more than 50 lives will be saved every year once all cars are equipped with rear-view cameras.

The requirement actually is not new. It was part of the 2007 Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act - named after a 2-year-old child who was killed when his father backed into him in the family SUV. The regulation was supposed to take effect in 2011, but was repeatedly delayed by the Department of Transportation.

* Update 2014-Nov-27 *
Car manufacturers are looking into replacing all mirrors with cameras. Cameras would provide a clear image in otherwise tough conditions - such as sunrise or sunset, or when the car behind has its high beams turned on. Replacing side mirrors with cameras also would make the car more aerodynamic.

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