Auto Brands Scramble to Protect Owners from Faulty Takata Airbags

Posted by Dale Buss on October 22, 2014 06:03 PM

Problems with faulty airbags made by major supplier Takata have largely been overshadowed by the continuing flow of recalls this year from General Motors, Toyota and other automakers. But now, according to The Wall Street Journal, the seriousness of the safety flaws in these ubiquitous airbags is being underscored in important new ways: U.S. Federal prosecutors have begun an official investigation into the Japan-based supplier and its dangerously defective products.

For owners of up to 7.8 million Toyota, Honda Mazda, BMW, Nissan, GM, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Ford vehicles—essentially, the entire roster of brands in the American market—the NHTSA has issued a warning that they should "act immediately" to fix Takata's defective airbags, the New York Times reports.

Toyota is trying to take this directive one better by asking its Lexus dealers to disable Takata airbags in the models in question if they can't be replaced. And Bloomberg notes that GM plans to warn owners of 2003-2004 Pontiac Vibe hatchbacks who are in warm-weather areas not to allow front-seat passengers until the defective air bags are replaced. "We are treating this urgently," GM Spokesman Alan Adler said. Continue reading...


OnStar Keeps GM Ahead, but Could It Also Boost Safety?

Posted by Dale Buss on July 7, 2014 03:03 PM

OnStar long has been something of a sub-optimized brand. General Motors is trying to change that these days with 4G LTE connectivity for the infotainment system it markets across all brands.

But now comes the suggestion that GM also could be using not the OnStar brand but its massive information troves for an as-yet-untapped purpose that could really help the tattered corporate reputation of America’s largest auto company: as a provider of “big data” that could help GM spot emerging safety problems more quickly— and help avoid problems.

At the heart of the OnStar system, explained the New York Times, is a link to the vehicle’s computerized brain, which collects more than 1,000 separate measurements on virtually every aspect of the vehicle’s health and also provides continuous location information.Continue reading...

brand challenges

GM Hopes to Turn the Key on Recall Crisis with Limitless Victim Fund

Posted by Alicia Ciccone on July 1, 2014 04:14 PM

The GM safety recalls have officially reached nauseating levels. On Monday, soon after Kenneth Feinberg, the GM-appointed attorney who will run the brand's compensation fund, announced details of the filing and payment process, GM announced that an additional 8.4 million vehicles would be recalled, most for the same ignition switch issue at the center of the brand's ongoing crisis

Globally, GM has now recalled over 29 million vehicles in the first six months of this year, and while CEO Mary Barra's newfound diligence may help curb further accidents and injuries, the ever-expanding roll call of recalled vehicles, now dating back to 1997, is painting a much more grim picture of GM's future as a trustworthy automotive brand. 

Even still, GM has recorded its best June since the recession. But how long will consumers continue to be enamored with a brand that can't keep its vehicles on the road?Continue reading...


Potential Cruze Airbag Recall Adds to Uphill Battle for Barra

Posted by Dale Buss on June 26, 2014 02:53 PM

General Motors CEO Mary Barra is expanding her public persona with news media appearances such as one on "The Today Show" this morning. But the spreading stain of increased GM recalls—because of a new level of transparency that Barra herself deliberately created—finally could begin to take a bite out of the company where it counts most: in dealer showrooms.

GM confirmed it has issued a “stop order” to its dealers to halt delivery of 33,000 of its 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruze sedans because of a potential problem involving an airbag inflator made by Takata—the same Japan-based supplier whose air bags have been at the center of a spate of recent recalls by Ford, Honda, Nissan and other brands.

GM already has issued 44 recalls this year covering 20 million vehicles globally, including the extremely damaging ignition switch-related recall that is responsible for at least 13 deaths, and the stop order on some Cruze sales may end up being a recall as well, the company said yesterday. 

“We are going to continue to look at the data that we get and we are going to take the action that we need,” she said. “That's our commitment to customers. If we find an issue, we are going to deal with it."Continue reading...


Luxury Autos Grapple Over EVs, International Expansion and Laser Beams

Posted by Dale Buss on June 24, 2014 11:29 AM

Recall madness has been obscuring most of the other news out of the auto industry these days, but there’s plenty of scrambling that has nothing to do with safety campaigns and investigations. At the top is the still-intensifying competition among BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz for the global lead in premium-vehicle sales.

Audi has just thrown the latest punch with news that it has drawn up blueprints for a range of high-performance electric cars, according to Reuters. The brand had sidelined EV-development efforts a couple of years ago in the face of slackening prospects but recently has stepped up such efforts again in the wake of the sales success of Tesla and accelerating EV moves by BMW, the news service said.

One of the new blueprints Audi has drawn up is for an electric version of a new Q8 SUV that would pit the vehicle against Tesla’s upcoming Model X crossover, Reuters said. Audi also has improved the once-limited range of its first EV, the R8 e-tron, which now is slated for a 2015 release in Europe, according to Digital Trends.Continue reading...

brand challenges

GM CEO Barra Hopes First Annual Meeting Was Last Under Shadow of Recalls

Posted by Dale Buss on June 10, 2014 06:07 PM

When she became CEO of General Motors in December, Mary Barra likely imagined this day—the day of her first annual meeting presiding over the company—as one that would continue to burnish the accomplishments of her young tenure as the first female chieftain of a major automaker.

Instead, GM’s annual meeting provided more of the same—but more of the same drumbeat of discussion about the fallout from the company’s ignition-switch recall crisis and what she is doing to try to fix it.

The theme du jour was just how much the whole fiasco still could potentially damage her company even though Barra has cooperated with the federal government, fired 15 GM managers and lawyers, sped up any potential outstanding recalls and vowed to overhaul the company’s culture following an independent investigation into why the faulty switch was not detected and replaced earlier.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers. Absolutely nothing,” Barra said to a small crowd of actual attendees of the meeting in Detroit, according to the New York Times. As might be expected, protesters on behalf of those killed and injured because of the company’s faulty ignition-switch in several older models also were on hand.Continue reading...

brand challenges

Barra Cleans House at GM, Vows to "Do the Right Thing" Following Recall Report

Posted by Dale Buss on June 5, 2014 12:23 PM

In what could amount to one of history’s biggest episodes of bloodletting by a major corporation, General Motors CEO Mary Barra dismissed 15 employees—including at least eight senior executives—in the ignition switch recall debacle.

And no doubt hoping as much as dictating, Barra pronounced an end to “the personnel issues in this matter” as she addressed GM employees today in a global town hall about her actions. The move comes after Barra received the final report from the investigation she commissioned by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas.

After combing through 41 million documents, he found what Barra called “a pattern of incompetence and neglect” that led to 11 years of delays in recalling millions of cars for the ignition switch defect that killed at least 13 motorists—and has swallowed up Barra’s new tenure since early this year.Continue reading...

now hear this

Sergio Marchionne Shoots Straight, Even If It’s At Some of His Own Models

Posted by Dale Buss on May 23, 2014 05:36 PM

Back in the Eighties, cigar-chomping Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca was known for his candor, and the brand even capitalized on it in commercials. “If you can find a better car, buy it,” was one of Chrysler’s tag lines, uttered in ads by Iacocca himself.

Now in the Teens, sweater-donning Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has adopted the mantle of candor on behalf of his company and has built a reputation as the most straight-shooting auto chief in the world. It helps that he’s been able to engineer a comeback for Chrysler and survival for Fiat in a troubled European auto market, so any Marchionne utterance can be as significant as it is direct.

Two new examples emerged this week as Marchionne weighed in on a couple of issues that are especially big for the auto industry if not so monumental right now for Fiat Chrysler: recalls and EVs.

“I hope you don’t buy it,” Marchionne quipped this week about the new $32,650 Fiat 500e, a well-executed electric vehicle, “because every time you do it costs me $14,000.”Continue reading...

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