Stout's Automotive Recall Accelerator brings together unique and important news, analysis, and insights related to automotive recall and vehicle safety for stakeholders across the industry.

May 05, 2021

In April, Stout led the Society of Automotive Analysts' 8th Annual Automotive Recalls Summit. Access our slide materials and the recording of the presentation.

Recent Developments

In January and May 2020, two vehicle manufacturers issued recalls for nearly 1.9 million vehicles due to a defect in fuel pumps supplied by the same manufacturer. The defect involved cracked fuel pumps due to the exposure of solvents during drying. After the issuance of the recalls, the vehicle manufacturers further investigated the issue to determine the toughness of the material and found increased likelihood of part failure. In late 2020 and early 2021, both vehicle manufacturers expanded their initial recalls as the root cause of the defect was better understood resulting in a total combined recall population of nearly 4.1 million vehicles.

  • "Affected vehicles may be equipped with a fuel pump module manufactured with low density impellers. If the surface of a lower density impeller is exposed to production solvent drying for longer periods of time, higher levels of surface cracking may occur. These cracks may lead to excessive fuel absorption, resulting in impeller deformation. Over time, if an impeller deforms to a point that it creates sufficient interference with the fuel pump body, the fuel pump becomes inoperative, which may cause illumination of the Malfunction Indicator Lamp in the instrument panel."
  • "Fuel pump inoperability could prevent an engine from starting or stall an engine while driving, increasing the risk of a crash."
  • The Part 573 submissions for the initial recalls can be accessed at the links below:
  • The Part 573 submission for the expansion of this recall can be accessed at the links below:

A vehicle manufacturer is recalling over 140,000 model year 2015-2020 vehicles in the U.S. due to defective passenger occupant detection systems (PODS) found to be deactivating passenger airbags even when a passenger was present. An interesting element of this recall is the visual and audio warnings to the driver when the condition is present. The recall was still initiated despite sporadic occurrence and warnings to the driver.

  • "The passenger occupant detection system (PODS) may detect a malfunction and switch off the passenger airbag even though the seat may be occupied. As designed, a warning light in the instrument panel comes on together with an acoustic warning sound and an error message is displayed in the instrument cluster. The airbag indicator light shows "passenger airbag off." This error often occurs sporadic and for a limited amount of time. When the error disappears, the passenger airbag works again as intended without any action/interaction necessary by the customer."
  • Refer to the Part 573 submission for this recall.
  • Refer to a detailed chronology for this recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently closed an investigation involving faulty headlight modules after nearly 4 years. The defect involved loss of illumination for low beam headlights and daytime running lights without warning for 2002 through 2009 model year vehicles. The vehicle manufacturer issued 2 recalls and an extended warranty to address the issue which involves replacing the headlight driver modules.

  • "Under normal electrical load and environmental conditions, the Headlight Driver Module (HDM) can overheat inside the Underhood Electrical Center (UEC). This can cause the module to fail and result in a simultaneous loss of both low beam headlights and both daytime running lights (DRLs), often with no warning or prior detectability to the driver. This failure can be intermittent or permanent. No other exterior lights are affected. High beams, turn signals, brake lights, and reverse lights are still operational."
  • The investigation was originally opened as a recall query to assess the scope of a launched recall. NHTSA noted in 2017:
    • "Since the recall was launched, Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received 128 complaints alleging problems with the headlights from vehicle owners that claim their vehicle is outside the scope of 15V-519 but within the recall's scope of model years. Complaints report simultaneous loss of both headlights with no warning. Some of the complaints include repair orders that show the same component being replaced that was replaced in the recall."
  • The investigation originally involved 2005-2009 model year vehicles. The investigation "was expanded to include all vehicles equipped with the subject Headlight Driver Module (HDM)" which consists of 2002-2009 model year vehicles.
  • The investigation documents can be accessed at the links below:

In April, administrative rulemaking, guidance and enforcement procedures were changed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

  • "This final rule removes the Department's internal policies and procedures relating to the issuance of rulemaking and guidance documents from the Code of Federal Regulations. In addition, this final rule removes regulations concerning the initiation and conduct of enforcement actions, including administrative enforcement proceedings and judicial enforcement actions brought in Federal court."
  • For more information: Access the final rule
  • As of April 1, the comment period closed (after an extension in January) for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) proposed rulemaking regarding the safety framework around automated driving systems. In NHTSA's proposed rulemaking, NHTSA outlined safety, security and privacy for automated driving systems which could provide a framework for separate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). In total, 70 public comments were submitted consisting of, but not limited to: Regarding technologies, commenters indicated NTHSA should:
    • Require Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication in all automated vehicles, which includes Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Pedestrian to Vehicle (P2V) communications.
    • Ensure that safety standards are flexible to consider future technologies.
    • Account for potential racial bias in automated systems to ensure that individuals with all skin colors are detected in the system's algorithm.
  • Regarding development and regulation, commenters indicated NHTSA should:
    • Collaborate with other industries regarding the development and safety framework of advanced driver assistance systems.
    • Proactively develop standards, rather than reactively after field events occur.
  • Regarding privacy issues, commenters indicated NHTSA should not:
    • Independently monitor privacy concerns. Instead, leave this responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Regarding research, commenters indicated NHTSA should:
    • Conduct research around naturalistic driving behaviors and simulations and ensure that all research supports the safety framework standards developed.
    • Gather information about safety frameworks for advanced driver assistance systems from other countries and research driving scenarios to test performance.
  • Regarding safety framework core elements ("sensing", "perception", "planning"; and "control"), commenters indicated NHTSA should:
    • Focus the safety framework around the overall vehicle performance, rather than the core elements.
    • Consider "positioning" and "failure" as core elements, in addition to the four core elements.
    • Only consider "control" as a core element since the act of driving indirectly considers "sensing," "perception," and "planning."
  • Regarding data collection, commenters indicated NHTSA should:
    • Require data reporting if an advanced driver assistance system is active within 30 seconds of when an incident occurs.
    • Collect advanced driver assistance system data on a regular basis to better understand the safety of new technologies.
    • Require data reporting for all companies developing advanced driver assistance systems. Consider sharing the data with states, cities and when appropriate, the public.
  • For more information:

Research

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) issued the report “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State” which reflects preliminary data for 2020. Thus far, the GHSA has not observed a decrease in pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2020 compared to 2019, despite the decline in vehicle use resulting from the social, government and economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings include, but are not limited to:

  • “GHSA projects a pedestrian fatality rate of 1.9 per 100,000 population for January through December 2020, which would be a slight reduction from the 2019 pedestrian fatality rate of 2.0 per 100,000 population.”
  • “States reported a range of changes in the number of pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019: 27 states had increases in pedestrian fatalities, 20 states and D.C. had decreases, 3 states had no change.”
  • “The increasing shift in U.S. vehicle sales away from passenger cars to light trucks (with light trucks generally causing more severe pedestrian impacts than cars) is also a factor. Although passenger cars are more likely to be involved in fatal pedestrian crashes, from 2010 to 2019 the number of pedestrian fatalities involving SUVs increased at a faster rate compared to passenger cars – 69% versus 46%.”
  • For more information: GHSA: Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State, 2020.

In April, Warranty Week shared data trends on warranty costs between vehicle manufacturers, truck manufacturers and their suppliers. Warranty Week found that vehicle manufacturers typically have higher warranty costs compared to their suppliers, while truck manufacturers have similar warranty costs to their suppliers. However, based on 2020 data this trend has changed. Both vehicle manufacturers have reported lower expenses in 2020 compared to prior years while suppliers reported record high expenses in the fourth quarter of 2020.


Insights

In March, Foley & Lardner LLP issued its Automotive White Paper, “Top Legal Issues Facing the Automotive Industry in 2021.” The document highlights trends that they believe have affected/will continue to affect the automotive industry throughout the year. Topics highlighted in the paper include the following:

  • “Impacts of COVID-19 on Automotive Suppliers
  • Recent Impacts to the Automotive Supply Chain and Change Drivers for 2021
  • Key Employment Issues Facing Employers in the Automotive Industry
  • Mexico’s Role in the USMCA-Driven Consolidation of the North American Auto Industry
  • Renewed Biden Administration Commitment to the International Trade War Underscores Importance of Customs Compliance for Automotive Companies
  • Managing Data Privacy in the COVID-19 Environment – Navigating the Challenges of a Pandemic in 2021
  • 2021 Antitrust Outlook – A New Administration and State Activism Present Enforcement Uncertainty
  • NHTSA and Motor Vehicle Safety
  • Leveraging E/AV Patent Portfolios During a Pandemic     
  • M&A Survives and Thrives in 2021: Dealmakers are Charged Up Heading into the New Year.”
  • Access the Foley Automotive White Paper 

In March, the DOT issued a document about child passenger safety (CPS) inspection stations. CPS stations are locations throughout the U.S. where drivers can learn from nationally certified CPS technicians about how to keep child passengers safe through the proper use of car seats, booster seats and seat belts. The document highlights the need, importance, best practices and suggested implementation and maintenance procedures for these stations. CPS inspection stations could also serve as a channel for vehicle owners to check for open vehicle safety recalls, as well as obtain information about how to take action to have the recall completed.

For more information: A Guide to Implementing Child Passenger Safety Inspection Stations.


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