1.3 Million Fords, Toyotas and Hondas under Federal Investigation

February 26, 2013

74096_honda_crv.jpgDefective product lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight a recent investigation conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) that is focusing on 1.3 million Ford, Toyota and Honda vehicles. The agency has not yet decided whether mass recalls will be initiated.

More than 550,000 of the country's best-selling hybrids, the Toyota Prius, are subject to the investigation, adding fuel to allegations that its steering shafts were assembled improperly. The vehicle was recently involved in two safety recalls, which affected hundreds of thousands of American models. The recall was sparked by faulty steering intermediate extension shafts and electric water pumps.

Toyota also issued massive recalls in 2010 when it was discovered many Lexus vehicles had acceleration problems, among other serious safety defects. At least 90 people were killed and 60 were injured from these defects, prompting multi-district litigation and tens of millions of dollars in fines. The penalties were due to the company's failure to report safety defects to the NHTSA. In 2012, Toyota recalled more vehicles that any other automaker in the country, and it has already recalled one million vehicles so far in 2013.

Toyota recently agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle lawsuits pertaining to the sudden acceleration defects. It should be noted that this amount does not include cases of wrongful death and injury, only those claiming economic losses. The $1 billion is set aside to compensate only those consumers who suffered financial losses from defective vehicles.

The NHSTA investigation will focus on Prius' made between 2004 and 2009, many of which were subject to the previous recalls. If the investigation prompts another Prius recall, it is uncertain what the public and private response will be. Toyota sells more hybrids in the United States than all other automakers combined, and the Prius is largely the reason for this success. The hybrid is the basis of Toyota's claims of being the 'greenest' manufacturer in the auto industry.

In a separate investigation, the NHSTA is examining more than 700,000 models of Ford Escape, Fusion, and Mercury Milan and Mariner vehicles manufactured between 2009 and 2011. The agency has received more than 120 reports that these models can suddenly lose power or completely stall while in use. This problem is suspected to be due to contaminated printed circuit boards and defective throttle body assemblies.

Ford is also struggling with its public image, as the company's vehicles have consistently ranked extremely low in recent quality surveys. The Ford investigation was sparked by formal complaints by the North Carolina Consumers Council, which is actively involved in automotive safety issues and has been responsible for numerous recent recalls and investigations.

The Honda investigation focuses on the 87,000 Pilots manufactured in 2005. To date, the NHSTA has received more than 200 reports of sudden and severe braking in these 2005 Pilots. The malfunctions may be due to defective sensors in the vehicle's Vehicle Stability Assist system.

Honda recently recalled about 835,000 minivans and Pilot SUVs due to issues with the airbags. The recall affects Pilots made between 2009 and 2013 and Odysseys made between 2011 and 2013. The airbags in these cars may not deploy properly on impact, posing immense risk to drivers and passengers. This follows another recent Odyssey and Pilot recall, which was initiated because of defects that caused the vehicles to roll away after removing the ignition key.

Car recall lawyers at Pintas & Mullins hope these NHSTA investigations will prompt increased oversight into automobile manufacturing in the US. If you or someone you loved was seriously injured an accident caused by faulty vehicles, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation.