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865,000 General Motors S.U.V.’s Under Investigation

[B]April 29, 2011

865,000 General Motors S.U.V.’s Under Investigation for Faulty Fuel Gauge

By CHRISTOPHER JENSEN



A 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer is one of the models under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating inaccurate fuel gauges on 865,000 of the most popular sport utilities built by General Motors.

The agency said it had received 668 complaints, including 58 in which the consumer said the vehicle stalled when it ran out of gas, even though the gauge indicated that fuel remained.

The models covered are the 2005-7 Chevrolet Trailblazer, G.M.C. Envoy, Buick Rainier and Saab 9-7x (which was based on the G.M. S.U.V.’s).

The investigation, posted on the agency’s Web site on Friday, is called a preliminary evaluation. If the agency were to find reason for concern, the investigation would be upgraded to an engineering analysis, a significant step closer to a recall.

In other actions this week:

• Kia is recalling about 58,000 vehicles because the gas tanks could fall off, the automaker told the safety agency. Straps that hold the gas tank in place on the 2004–7 Spectra may rust and break free. While the dragging strap “typically alerts the driver to the developing condition, it is possible for the fuel tank to contact the ground,” the statement said.

The recall covers the District of Columbia and states that rely heavily on road salt. They are Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The action is known as a geographic recall because it only aims at some vehicles, which ultimately saves an automaker from incurring the expense of a nationwide recall. The safety agency has allowed such actions over the objections of consumer groups, which claim that people moving from state to state and selling affected vehicles outside the recall zone could prevent some models from being fixed.

In its filing, Kia did not say exactly when it first learned of the problem, only that it emerged during an “ongoing review of field information.” Typically, such filings provide the month and year in which the automaker first suspects of a problem, as well as a list of subsequent actions.

The filing did not say whether there were any accidents or injuries, and a Kia spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

• Toyota is recalling about 51,000 of its 2011 Tundra pickups because the rear driveshaft could break and hit the road, the automaker told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The automaker said a component called a slip yoke was improperly cast and could break. If the drive shaft hit the road, it could result in “a loss of vehicle control,” the automaker said. Toyota began investigating the condition in March, after a customer reported the yoke sheared off. The automaker said it was not aware of any accidents.

Both Toyota and Kia described their recalls as voluntary, but once a manufacturer learns of a safety problem, it must inform the agency and conduct a recall, or face a civil fine.

• Yakima is recalling about 9,600 rooftop FrontLoader bike racks (part No. 8002103) because some customers are having trouble using them properly and the bicycles could fall off.

• About 5,300 heated seat covers sold by Brookstone and ActiveHeat.com are being recalled because they could cause burns. The covers were imported by Adventive Ideas, which attributed the problem to “multiple changes in material, process and quality control” at a plant in China.

• The Blue Bird Corporation is recalling about 500 school buses because of a fire hazard. The recall covers 2009-12 Vision models with an optional fuel filter on which a fuel line could rub against the transmission cover, causing a fuel leak.

• Nissan is recalling nearly 196,000 Pathfinder and Infiniti QX4 S.U.V.’s because corrosion can cause part of the front suspension to collapse. The affected model years are 1996-2004 for the Pathfinder and 1997–2003 for the QX4.


Rick

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