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Old 07-30-2003, 08:29   #1 (permalink)
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U.S.A.:NHTSA examines airbags on Taurus, Sable for possible defect

NHTSA examines airbags on Taurus, Sable for possible defect


By HARRY STOFFER | Automotive News

WASHINGTON - Federal safety officials are intensifying an investigation of front-impact airbags in nearly 900,000 Ford Tauruses and Mercury Sables to see if a defect might keep the airbags from deploying in crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says its investigation stemmed largely from a single high-speed crash in which airbags did not deploy in a 2000 Ford Taurus rental car. The driver was killed, and the front passenger was injured.

NHTSA says it has uncovered 295 other reports to the agency and to Ford Motor Co. from people who claim that airbags did not work in a variety of frontal impacts.

NHTSA upgraded its investigation from a preliminary evaluation to the more intense level called engineering analysis. It covers Tauruses and Sables from the 2000-01 model years. About 896,000 are on the road, the agency says.

NHTSA also says it stepped up an investigation of some 1999 Chrysler group cars to determine if there is a flaw in the transmission-ignition interlock system, allowing them to roll away when parked.

The affected models are the Dodge Stratus, Plymouth Breeze and Chrysler Cirrus and Sebring. About 217,000 are in service.

NHTSA and the manufacturer together have collected 113 complaints about a problem. They include 29 reported crashes with five claimed injuries. The agency says about 1,200 warranty claims could be related to the problem.

NHTSA reports it has opened two investigations to determine if U.S. versions of vehicles that have been recalled in overseas markets also should be returned by owners for repairs.

One involves 1.43 million General Motors cars.

The nameplates involved are the 1996-97 Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunfire and Grand Am, Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Achieva.

GM of Canada recalled the cars sold there because front airbags could deploy without a crash if the airbag controller got soaked with what NHTSA calls "a significant amount of water."

In the other case, NHTSA says it wants to determine if peeling door handle plating on some 1998-2001 Hondas poses a safety hazard. The affected nameplates are the Accord, Prelude and Insight. About 278,000 are in service.

The agency says 335,000 cars were recalled in Japan after 36 people complained of finger cuts.

American Honda Motor Co. told NHTSA it has received eight complaints in the United States so far.

Here are new defect investigations NHTSA says it has opened.


1998-2003 DODGE DURANGO

Problem: Upper ball joint fails; vehicle goes out of control
Complaints: Four, with 81 claims that joints wore prematurely
Vehicle population: 450,000


2001 FORD ESCAPE, MAZDA TRIBUTE

Problem: Driver seat-belt latch does not buckle or does not stay buckled
Complaints: Four
Vehicle population: 193,000


1999 CHEVROLET MALIBU, PONTIAC GRAND AM

Problem: Front coil spring breaks, may puncture tire
Complaints: Eight
Vehicle population: 170,000


2002-03 SUBARU IMPREZA WRX

Problem: Brakes fail to slow vehicle adequately on rough, uneven surfaces
Complaints: 45, with five reported crashes
Vehicle population: 20,000
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