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From Products Liability Law Daily, September 8, 2015

Nissan launches recalls for over 300,000 vehicles with console trim panel, seat belt issues

By John Dumoulin

More than 300,000 vehicles manufactured by Nissan are subject of a recall to repair console trim panel issues, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in a recall notice, which also marked the close of a defect investigation (NHTSA Recall Notice, No. 15V507, Report receipt date: August 12, 2015; NHTSA ODI Investigation, No. EA15-003, September 1, 2015). Another 1,554 vehicles were subject to recall for seat belt issues, and a defect investigation concerning  problems with the front passenger Occupant Classification System in certain Nissan models was upgraded from a Recall Query to an Engineering Analysis (NHTSA Recall Notice, No. 15V501, Report receipt date: August 10, 2015; NHTSA ODI Investigations, No. EA15-004, August 31, 2015; No. RQ15-001, September 1, 2015).

Console trim panel. Nissan North America, Inc., has recalled approximately 298,747 model year 2012-2015 Nissan Versa sedan vehicles manufactured from June 9, 2011, to March 11, 2015, and 2014-2015 Nissan Versa Note vehicles manufactured from April 23, 2013, to March 11, 2015, because the affected vehicles have a center console trim panel that may catch the driver’s shoe and delay the transition from the accelerator pedal to the brake pedal. A delay in the application of the brake pedal would lengthen the distance needed to stop the vehicle and increase the risk of a crash, according to Nissan. In addition to the number of recalled vehicles indicated above, an estimated 122,558 addition vehicles covered by this recall have already been repaired.

Nissan’s recall instructs dealers to trim the console panel so that the leading edge is at a greater distance from the driver’s foot. Nissan had previously issued a service campaign on April 16, 2015, to provide the remedy for the same set of vehicles before deciding to change the program to a safety recall. Of the approximately 421,305 vehicles covered by this recall, No. 15V507, approximately 122,558 have already been repaired under the service campaign. Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will modify the console trim panel, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin by mid-October 2015.

A related investigation by NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), No. EA15-003, has been closed based on this recall. On August 11, 2015, Nissan submitted a Defect Information Report (DIR) describing a condition that may impede the driver’s ability to transition quickly and smoothly from the accelerator pedal to the brake pedal in certain model year 2012 through 2015 Nissan Versa Sedans and model year 2014 through 2015 Nissan Versa Note vehicles. According to Nissan’s DIR, in certain circumstances related to driver foot position and shoe type, the right edge of the driver’s shoe may catch the edge of the center console lower trim panel. ODI’s investigation also examined allegations that an HVAC duct in the driver’s footwell area may interfere with the driver's right foot in certain circumstances. ODI said it will continue to monitor complaints related to the HVAC duct condition.

Seat belts. According to notice No. 15V501, Nissan has recalled an estimated 1,554 model year 2015 Nissan Armada vehicles manufactured from April 30, 2015, to June 5, 2015, because the affected vehicles may have been built with driver or front passenger seat belt assemblies that may not properly latch or that may not unlatch when the release button is pressed. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, “Occupant Crash Protection” and number 209, “Seat Belt Assemblies.” A seat belt that does not properly latch would not restrain a user, increasing their risk of injury in the event of a crash, according to Nissan. A seat belt that does not properly unlatch when the release button is pressed may prevent the occupant from quickly exiting the vehicle in an emergency, such as after a crash, increasing the risk of injury, Nissan warned.

Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will inspect the front seat belt buckle assemblies, replacing them as necessary, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin by early October 2015.

Recalls contact information. Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261. Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Air bag investigations. ODI has closed a Recall Query (RQ15-001) after upgrading it to an Engineering Analysis (EA 15-004). In April 2014, Nissan launched Safety Recall 14V138 to address problems with the Occupant Classification System (OCS) algorithm in the following vehicles: model year 2013-2014 Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra and LEAF; model year 2013 Infiniti JX35; model year 2014 Infiniti QX60 and Q50; and model year 2013 Nissan NV 200/Taxi vehicles. According to Nissan, the OCS may misclassify adult front passenger occupants and turn off the passenger’s frontal air bag for an adult occupant of sufficient weight.

In March 2015, ODI opened RQ15-001 after the agency received approximately 124 complaints alleging problems with the OCS after the recall repairs and/or other OCS related repairs were made by Nissan/Infiniti dealers. The majority of the complaints alleged the passenger air bag status light stays on (i.e., indicating passenger air bag is turned off) for adult front passengers of sufficient weight. Many of the complaints stated the dealers have made multiple repairs but the problem still persists. ODI has upgraded RQ15-001 to an Engineering Analysis (EA15-004) to conduct a comparative assessment and further evaluate the effectiveness of the recall remedy, which will include a thorough review of the countermeasures taken by Nissan and its suppliers.

Companies: Nissan North America, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory MotorVehiclesNews MotorEquipmentNews RecallNewsStory

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