Death Toll Reaches 21 for GM’S Faulty Ignition Switches

According to a recently released report by an unnamed lawyer working for the program to compensate victims of accidents caused by GM’s faulty ignition switch, the number of deaths deemed eligible for compensation has reached 21 with another 16 eligible claims for serious injuries.  Reuters has reported that as of August 1, 2014 a total of 1,675 claims have been submitted for serious injuries or deaths related to the faulty ignition switch.  Of those claims, 143 are related to  fatalities attributed to the accident.  Statistically, with only 37 of the 1,675 claims deemed eligible, only 2% of the submitted claims have been deemed eligible for compensation. Earlier this year, GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles over the faulty ignition switch.  The ignition switch defect allows the ignition to slip out of position during vehicle operation which results in the disabling of the airbags and causes the vehicle to stall and lose power steering and power braking capabilities.  Investigations have shown that GM executives not only had knowledge of the faulty ignition switches as far back as 2004, but emails obtained by Reuters showed that the parts could have been fixed for about 90 cents per car, plus $400,000 in tooling costs.  In May, NHTSA fined GM $35 million, the maximum amount allowed under the law, for their delay in recalling vehicles with the faulty switch. In the consent decree, GM “admitted that it broke federal law by not recalling the vehicles in a timely fashion” reported Vox. In an ironic twist, GM’s bailout from the federal government could also become a factor. “As part of the government restructuring, GM technically isn’t liable for injuries that happened before it went bankrupt in the summer of 2009. That potentially includes some of the victims of the ignition-switch defect,” according to Vox.  However, according to Peter J. Mougey, head of Levin, Papantonio’s Business & Securities Litigation Section, “Our bankruptcy laws are not designed to shield debtors from injuries caused by problems their companies knew about and failed to fix,”  Mougey believes the new GM, the post-bankruptcy GM, will be held liable for the hidden defects as company executives were aware of the problems and did not tell consumers. In cases where there are questions as to whether an accident is related to a manufacturer’s recalled part, a forensic engineer is often utilized.  Forensic engineering and accident reconstruction involves analysis of physical evidence in an effort to understand the events and circumstances immediately preceding an accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineers are highly trained, licensed Professional Engineers who specialize in accident reconstruction and failure analysis.  Typical investigations involve analyzing crash related evidence, and pre-crash evidence, to identify potential mechanical failures which may have caused or contributed to an accident.

GM recalling 524,000 vehicles in two new recalls

General Motors Co. recently announced that it is recalling more than ½ million vehicles in two new recall campaigns — including 290,000 U.S. SUVs for loose nuts that have been linked to three crashes and two injuries. 1)    GM said Friday the recall would include approximately 290,000 Cadillac SRX (MY 2010~2015) and Saab 9-4X (MY 2011~2012) SUVs in the United States to make sure the rear toe link adjuster bolts are properly tightened.  GM said the loose nuts could result in the toe adjuster link separating which could lead to a crash. Dealers will inspect for the condition and, if necessary, will install a new link assembly. Unsold vehicles are to be checked for proper torque before being sold. GM is aware of three crashes and two injuries as result of this condition. 2)    GM also said it is recalling nearly 90,000 Chevrolet Spark models (MY 2013~2015) in the U.S. because rust can cause the secondary hood latch striker to stick in the open position. If the primary latch is not closed, the hood could open unexpectedly. The affected vehicles, imported from South Korea, were manufactured with a secondary hood latch that may prematurely rust at the latch pivot causing the striker to get stuck out of position and preventing the striker from properly engaging the hood latch. GM told NHTSA in March it learned of three incidents in the United Kingdom of the hoods opening without warning. GM said it had 10 warranty reports of the problem in the United States but is not aware of any crashes or injuries as a result of this condition. The new recalls means GM has issued approximately 70 separate recalls in 2014, affecting approximately 26.5 million vehicles in the United States and 30 million worldwide.

Infiniti Q70 earns “Top Safety Pick+” from IIHS

Thanks to a “good” overall evaluation and the Top Safety Pick+ award, the 2014 – 2015 Infiniti Q70 is the safest car the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested recently.  The luxury sedan kept the crash test dummy out of harm’s way with measurements indicating low risks of any significant injuries in a similar crash situation. Throughout the crash sequence, the dummy’s movements were well controlled, with the head loading the frontal airbag, while the side curtain airbag deployed appropriately and offered sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from the side structure and outside objects. The Q70’s driver space was maintained reasonably well, with max intrusion at the parking brake pedal (22 cm), while the lower hinge pillar moved roughly 15 centimeters. Upper interior intrusion was measured 8 to 9 centimeters at the hinge pillar and instrument panel. Equipped with the optional Technology Package, which adds safety features such as Forward Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning, the Infiniti Q70 offered good levels of protection during the small overlap front crash test. However, the IIHS awarded the structure and safety cage an “average.”  To see the IIHS video of the small overlap test click here.   More about IIHS Testing IIHS tests evaluate two aspects of safety: 1) crash-worthiness – how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash,  and 2) crash avoidance and mitigation – technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity. To determine crashworthiness, IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on performance in five tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. In the area of crash avoidance and mitigation, IIHS assigns vehicles with available front crash prevention systems ratings of basic, advanced or superior, based on the type of system and performance in track tests. To qualify for 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test. To qualify for 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must meet the TOP SAFETY PICK criteria, plus earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Bosch Releases CDR Version 14.1

Bosch Releases CDR Version 14.1 On October 6th, 2014 Bosch CDR (Crash Data Retrieval) announced the release of its latest software version, 14.1.  The new software adds airbag module imaging support for select 2015 vehicles sold in the US and Canada.  Select vehicle “black boxes” can now be accessed via the DLC (Diagnostic Link Connector) or by directly connecting to the vehicle’s Airbag Control Module (ACM).  The select vehicles which are now supported include: BMW / MINI / Rolls-Royce (MY2015, US Market) – BMW 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 series – BMW X3, X4, X5 and X6 – MINI – Cooper Hardtop, Convertible, Coupe, Countryman, Paceman and Roadster – Rolls-Royce Ghost and Wraith Ford / Lincoln (MY2015, US/Canada Markets) – Ford Escape and Expedition – Lincoln Navigator Honda / Acura (MY2015, US/Canada Markets) – Honda Accord 4Dr and FHEV – Honda Crosstour and CR-V Mazda (MY2015, US/Canada Market) – 2015 CX-9 and Mazda5 Mercedes-Benz / smart (MY2014-2015, US/Canada Markets) – MY2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class EV – MY2015 Mercedes-Benz C, CLA, E, G, GLA, M & S – Class vehicles – 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL & SLK – 2015 smart Toyota (Various MY2001 – MY2015, European Market) – Lexus CT200h, ES, GS, IS, LF-A, LS, LX, RX – Toyota 86, Auris, Avalon, Avensis, Ayg, Celsior, Corolla, Corolla Verso, Dyna, ES/Camry, Harrier, Hilux, Ist, LandCruiser/Prado, Prius, Ractis, RAV4/Vanguard, Toyoace, Verso-S, Yaris Toyota (MY2015, US/Canada, Australia Markets) – Lexus GS, LS & NX – Scion xB – Toyota Avalon, Camry, Highlander, RAV4, Tundra The Bosch CDR system supports select airbag modules for vehicle as far back as 1996.  To see if the pre-crash data from your vehicle’s airbag module can be downloaded please see the BOSCH CDR Coverage List. Veritech engineers utilize the Bosch CDR system as an important tool to aid in performing vehicle accident reconstructions.  Airbag modules are capable of recording valuable pre-crash information, such as vehicle speed, brake application and seatbelt usage, but are not capable of telling the entire story.  Accident reconstruction engineers must still consider all of the available physical evidence, along with the ACM data, in to order to properly reconstruct an accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineering employs Professional Engineers who are specifically trained and certified in the use of the Bosch CDR system and have performed numerous accident reconstructions utilizing airbag module information.  Click on the following link for more information on “black box” technology.

Arctic Cat recalls 40,000 ATVs from 2008-09 model years

Arctic Cat Inc. announced that it is voluntarily recalling its all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) manufactured in 2008 and a portion of the models produced in 2009; a component in the front gear box may not meet the company’s standards. There are no confirmed reports of serious injuries traced to the front gear case. “Consumer safety is at the top of Arctic Cat’s values,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chris Twomey. “We ask ATV owners of affected models to stop riding their vehicles and to bring them to one of our dealers so we can make the necessary repairs free of charge and allow users to ride their ATVs again as soon as possible.” This recall affects an estimated 35,000 ATVs from the 2008 model year and 4,500 ATVs from the 2009 model year. Registered owners of the affected ATVs will be notified by direct mail. A toll-free number is available for consumers to call with any questions: US 1-800-279-6851, CANADA 1-800-373-0717. Issues with front gearboxes on ATVs have the potential to cause unexpected changes in the handling and stability of the machine.  If a rider experiences an unexpected change while operating the vehicle there may be a resulting loss of control.  When an injury accident occurs involving a vehicle with an alleged defect, it is the job of an experienced forensic engineer to determine whether the alleged defect caused or contributed to the accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineering specializes in accident reconstruction and product failure analysis.  Our Motorcycle-ATV expert is well suited to investigate issues related to alleged defects on powersports vehicles and to determine whether the accident was influenced by a mechanical deficiency or whether it was simply operator error.

Kawasaki Releases 295-hp Sportbike

After much speculation, patent discussion and a month-long Internet teaser campaign, Kawasaki finally pulled the wraps on its stunning H2-R hyperbike.  The H2-R features a supercharged 998cc inline-four, which Kawasaki claims produces 295 horsepower, and is rumored to have a top speed in excess of 210 mph.  Kawasaki is reportedly releasing the H2R as a “track only” model and is therefore able to bypass the 186 mph “gentleman’s agreement” for road legal machines.  The huge engine power is courtesy of a centrifugal supercharger developed using Kawasaki Heavy Industries’ extensive experience in building aircraft and power generation turbines. While the engine definitely takes center stage, the rest of the chassis is equally unusual, featuring a steel trellis design that Kawasaki states provided the best compromise between strength and compactness. A single-sided swingarm in aluminum is also a new direction for Kawasaki. The forks feature all three external adjustments on the fork cap and an Öhlins steering damper provides a measure of control.  To maintain maximum traction, racing slicks are fitted from the factory. Surrounding the H2-R is a carbon fiber body featuring aggressive winglets, a huge air intake tract for the supercharger and a black chrome surface finish. Developed with help from Kawasaki’s Aerospace Company, the extreme measures taken to control and direct airflow will likely be nothing short of necessary to provide stability for such a compact and powerful sportbike.  Kawasaki test rider and racer, Jeremy Toye, uploaded a photo of the H2R to his Instagram account, saying: ‘I went 210mph on it today. The wings really work.’  The photo has since been taken down. It is expected that in approximately 1 month Kawasaki will be pulling the wraps off the street version, the H2. Details such as pricing, boost levels, weight of either the H2-R or H2 are still pending, but Kawasaki has clearly established a new high-water mark for high performance motorcycling. For pictures, testing videos and more information click the link to Kawasaki’s official site.

Harley recalls 105,000 2014 Touring bikes

Harley-Davidson has announced that it is recalling more than 105,000 Touring motorcycles from the 2014 model year for a clutch master cylinder repair issue. According to documents submitted to NHTSA, 105,746 Touring models from the 2014 year are being recalled because a component in the clutch master cylinder may fail, reducing the pressure available to keep the clutch disengaged. Vehicles affected by this recall include:
  • Electra Glide Ultra Classic (FLHTCU)
  • Ultra Limited (FLHTK)
  • Police Electra Glide (FLHTP)
  • Street Glide Special (FLHXS)
  • Street Glide (FLHX)
  • Tri Glide Ultra (FLHTCUTG)
  • CVO Limited (FLHTKSE)
  • CVO Road King (FLHRSE)
  • CVO Breakout (FXSBSE)
  • Electra Glide Ultra Classic Twin Cooled (FLHTCUTC)
  • Ultra Limited Shrine (FLHTK SHRINE)
  • Street Glide Shrine (FLHX SHRINE)
  • CVO Softail Deluxe (FLSTNSE)
Harley-Davidson Motor Co. estimates that about 10 percent of the recalled bikes have the defect. Harley-Davidson informed NHTSA that it had received about 632 warranty claims and 266 customer contacts related to clutch functionality issues as of Aug. 19. “There were a total of 19 crashes (low speed tip over) with three minor injuries reported. There was also one report of an incident where there was non actual crash but a reported minor injury,” the OEM stated. On both original equipment and Harley-Davidson Parts & Accessories intended for these bike models, the hydraulic clutch system may develop a tear in the primary cup (seal) on the master cylinder piston. If the primary cup (seal) on the master cylinder piston develops a tear, then the system may lose the ability to maintain sufficient lift to keep the clutch disengaged. If this condition remains undetected, it could allow the motorcycle to “creep” forward from a stop, which could lead to a loss of control of the vehicle possibly causing a crash. Dealers will remedy the issue with a master cylinder rebuilt kit, which includes a plastic retaining ring that decreases the stress in the primary cup seal, the company stated. For more information and access to the official recall related documents visit the following link:  NHTSA website Veritech Consulting Engineering reconstructs accidents involving motor vehicles with a specialty in the reconstruction of motorcycle accidents.  Our motorcycle expert, Mark Kittel, P.E., is a former AMA pro-level road-racer and a registered professional engineer in multiple states.  Please contact us at 303-660-4395 with questions or to discuss the reconstruction of a motorcycle accident.

Proposed NHTSA Regulations to Protect Passengers in Motorcoaches and Large Buses

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard to protect motorcoach and other large bus passengers in rollover crashes.  The proposal aims to improve the structural design to ensure that passengers are better protected in rollover crashes by ensuring the space around them remains intact and the emergency exits remain operable. The proposed standard would establish performance requirements that each new motorcoach and large bus must meet when subjected to a dynamic test in which the motorcoach or bus is tipped over from a raised platform onto a hard level surface.  The proposed standard would:
  • Required space around occupant seating positions be maintained to afford occupants survivable space in a crash
  • Requires seats, overhead luggage racks and window glazing to remain attached to their mountings during and after testing; and
  • Require emergency exits to remain closed during the rollover test and operable after test.
Both the proposed test procedure and performance requirements are closely modeled after European regulations for large buses.  In a separate rulemaking action to improve safety even further, NHTSA is planning on finalizing requirements later this year for stability control technologies in these vehicles, which would help prevent rollovers from occurring. “Approximately 700 million trips are taken on commercial buses each year.  Raising the standard for motorcoache’s durability, in the event of a crash, is critical to saving the lives of the passengers inside.” said FMCSA Administrator Ann Ferro.  “In addition to taking critical steps to improve the structural design of buses, we are committed to further increasing motorcoach safety through stricter oversight, in-depth investigations into high risk companies, and by ensuring that drivers are properly licensed and medically fit for the job.” To read more visit the following link: NPRM