RepairPal Blog:

 Industry News

Important info from government agencies and the automotive industry

Most hybrids on the road today use an electric motor to supplement a traditional gas or diesel engine. The very early versions from General Motors and Honda gain only what amounts to an "auto-stop" function which allows for the engine to turn off when the vehicle is stopped and turned back on again as the drivers begins to accelerate. The second generation hybrids (Toyota Prius, Ford Escape, and full size GM Trucks) began incorporating the electric motors inside the transmission and added larger batteries. This design allows some limited propulsion from the electric motors in addition to the auto-stop feature. None of these vehicles have the capability to charge the high voltage battery from a wall outlet in your garage. Aftermarket companies have developed "plug-in" kits, mostly for the Prius which include a higher capacity battery and the ability to charge the high voltage battery from a standard electrical outlet. These "plug-in" hybrids offer an limited range where they can run on the electric motors only. The common bond with all of these hybrids is that the gas or diesel engine takes over for the electric motor when the high voltage battery gets low and propels the vehicle just as a non-hybrid, basically an internal combustion engine with and electric motor as a "helper" (Series Hybrid).

The latest safety issue for Toyota. Consumer Reports has just labeled the 2010 Lexus GX 460 with a "Don't Buy - Safety Risk" designation. This is the latest is a series of safety related issues for Toyota which is the parent company that manufactures the Lexus models. Previous issues involve unintended acceleration and braking issues on various Toyota models.

There has been a lot of concern in the media about the problems that Toyota has been having with their sticking gas pedals on their gas powered vehicles and the braking problems on their Prius Hybrid vehicles.  The concern is growing into a panic, and Joe White at the Wall Street Journal wrote an article with the alarmist title "Cars Are Getting Scary Again" that questions the complex nature of the modern automobile. What's scary is that this article was written 20 years too late. The problematic drive-by-wire system in the Toyotas has been in automobiles for over 20 years.  In the late 1980s, the larger BMW 12-cylinder vehicles used it to synchronize and control the two computers that were used to manage the engine.  Over the years, this system has worked so well that The U.S. Department of Transportation has mandated that every vehicle manufactured for sale in the U.S. must have an integrated Anti-Lock Brake and Traction Control system, or drive-by-wire system, no later than the 2010 model year.

Important, if you feel your vehicle has this unintended acceleration issue: If you have noticed any of the following: Your accelerator pedal is harder than normal to depress, not smooth during operation, or slow to return after being depressed the vehicle should be stopped at the nearest safe location, the engine shut off, and a Toyota dealer contacted for assistance.

Certain 2001 and 2002 Accord, Civic, Odyssey, CR-V, and selected 2002 Acura TL models. Honda has announced they are expanding a previously announced recall of certain 2001 and 2002 cars and trucks to replace the driver's airbag inflator. This will involve an additional 378,758 vehicles in the U.S. The problem found is that the driver's airbag inflators may deploy with too much pressure. This may cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury or fatality.

Here at RepairPal, we have heard several VW owners complain of Check Engine Lights with a misfiring engine, rough idle and poor acceleration. Well VW has sent out letters to many, if not all VW owners to notify them of a recall on the ignition coils. From the Volkswagen Website:

It looks like Saab's days are officially numbered. Saab has been in discussions with Koenigsegg Group AB, a Swedish sports-car maker, but Koenigsegg has pulled out. There are no apparent buyers for Saab, who just announced earlier this month that they would be closing 81 of 218 their US dealers. Here is a quote from George Glassman, owner of Glassman Saab of Southfield, Michigan which pretty much sums it up: “It is not what I had hoped to hear, but I believe it’s a dead issue. In the interim, if you know of a McDonald’s, Burger King or Dunkin’ Donuts that would like to occupy my showroom, let me know."

A GM/EBay deal went live on August 11th With over 225 California Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac and GMC dealers scheduled to post over 20,000 new vehicles on Ebay, GM is hoping that Ebay's 12 million monthly visits will boost sales via its special GM-branded portal and help move remaining 2008 and 2009 model year vehicles from its inventory.  With Ebay's "Buy it now and Best offer" sales formats, GM is making a measured bet on the new channel, and I'm sure other manufacturers will  be watching closely for signs of success. This offer runs from August 11th thru September 8th.  If you're in the market for a new car, it may be worth checking out.

A news story broke in California last week that Jerry Brown, California's Attorney General, and district attorneys in two counties are filing suit against the owner of 22 Midas repair shops, accusing him of defrauding his customers by luring them into shops with cheap brake job specials and then aggressively selling them services.  The suit apparently alleges that these additional services were not needed, and the claims in the suit are $222 million!! We hate hearing about this sort of incident because of the damage it does to the reputation of honest players in auto repair and also how it adds to the angst of customers needing help with service and repair.

When GM announced it will end the Pontiac Brand that GM started in 1927 as part of a restructuring that will close 13 plans and half of its dealerships at a cost of 21,000 factory jobs, my son and I were shocked. My love of Pontiac started with a 3-hour ride on a Greyhound bus with $300 in my pocket to buy my first Pontiac (a 1966 LeMans 326 V8 with a 4 speed).  Since then, I've always owned at least one Pontiac.  My son currently drives a 1974 Trans Am to high school, and he loves his car.  Everywhere he goes in that car people stop and stare.  Someone is always asking him if it is for sale.