Center for Auto Safety Releases 2009 Car Complaint Index

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on April 27th, 2009

Fox 29 News in Philadelphia recently reported that the Center for Auto Safety found that the Land Rover LR2 topped the 2009 Car Complaint Index. Information for the Index is compiled from consumer complaints registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The other four vehicles rounding out the top five in complaints are the Mitsubishi Lancer, the Pontiac Solstice, the Dodge Avenger, and the Subaru Impreza.

In the current economic crisis, automakers are putting the squeeze on dealers to cut back on warranty work. If you’re having a problem with your vehicle, you have to be twice as diligent in order to get the defects fixed. Moreover, because we’re all in this mess together, it’s important that you file a complaint with the NHTSA, if for no other reason than to alert other consumers to potential problems with the make and model of your vehicle. You can file a complaint or look up complaints on the NHTSA website.

Car Complaints: The Dubious Honors Go To…

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 4th, 2008

We’ve been discussing the 2008 cars that made their way to the top of the Center for Auto Safety’s Car Complaint Index. We’ve wound our way through Volkswagens, Jeeps, and even a Lexus.

Today, we’re covering the vehicles that had the highest ratio of complaints (to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to the number of cars sold.

Coming in second on the list of most complaints… the Dodge Nitro.

One consumer who had leased a Nitro had a nightmarish tale to tell the NHSTA. He wrote, “My wife routinely started the Nitro, put her foot on the brake (and not the gas), and engaged the gear from Park to Reverse. Within a split second, the car made an unusually loud noise and the car burst backward, taking out the right side of our gate and a portion of the fence adjacent to the gate…. She applied the brake, but the brake was not able to engage as the transmission had torqued the engine so hard that it forced her into the side of the house and the rear bumper rammed into a brick pillar supporting the roof of the front porch.”

The 2008 Nitro had six Technical Service Bulletins issued that reported problems with, among other items, the power train, the air bags, and the engine electronics.

And topping the list… The vehicle with the dubious honor of ranking first on the Complaint Index is… The Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Many of the 2008 Cruiser’s complaints revolve around the windshield chipping and cracking, but owners of the 2007 Cruiser have lodged dozens of complaints with the NHTSA. Several complaints involved faulty parking brakes, service brakes, engine failures, and air bag failures. The 2007 model was also subjected to three recalls: ABS control module software that could cause the rear brakes to lock; TIPM software that might stall the vehicle; and ABS software that could cause a delay in braking, potentially resulting in a crash.

If you weren’t a believer before, the complaints lodged about all of the vehicles on this Complaint Index should motivate you to check the NHTSA website for complaints, Technical Service Bulletins, and recalls both before and after you buy a car.

Car Complaints: Moving Up the List

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 29th, 2008

In previous posts, we’ve been working our way up the list of 2008 vehicles that captured the top 10 slots on the Center for Auto Safety’s Car Complaint Index. Remember, the higher the ratio of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the number of vehicles sold, the higher it will rank on the list.

So far, we’ve discussed:

10. Volkswagen Passat

9. Volkswagen Rabbit

8. Jeep Wrangler

7. Mitsubishi Outlander

6. Jeep Commander

5. Toyota Camry

Today, we’re moving on to numbers four and three on the list: the Hyundai Entourage and the Lexus ES.

In 2007, the Hyundai Entourage faced a wiring recall. It turns out that the wiring harness was out of position in some vehicles, potentially making contact with the U-joint assembly of the steering column. According to the NHTSA, “Chafed insulation could cause a short of the wiring harness, resulting in the loss of brake lights, engine stalling, or an inability to start the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.” Not good, to say the least. The complaints for the Entourage ranged from engine problems to airbags not deploying to structural issues with the sliding door.

The most serious complaints about the Lexus ES350 were that the vehicle accelerated suddenly. One complainant termed it “runaway acceleration,” while another suffered injuries after the car accelerated on its own and crashing into a tree.

We’ll report on the two vehicles that rose to the top of the Car Complaint Index in a few days.

Car Complaints Revisited: Numbers Six and Five

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 24th, 2008

We’ve talked about the Center for Auto Safety’s Car Complaint Index, which takes 2008 models and assigns a ratio that represents the number of vehicles sold and the number of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So far, we’ve talked about numbers 10 (Volkswagen Passat), 9 (Volkswagen Rabbit), 8 (Jeep Wrangler), and 7 (Mitsubishi Outlander). Today, we’ll move on to the 2008 models that captured the sixth and fifth slots on the list of cars with the most complaints: the Jeep Commander and the Toyota Camry.

The Jeep Commander has an unenviable list of complaints, ranging from cracking windshields to under-acceleration to broken front axles. The vehicle has also been subjected to two recalls: the front brake calipers may have been made from the wrong material, causing them to fracture; and the front control module, causing stalling problems or windshield wiper malfunction. The Commander also has six Technical Service Bulletins.

As for the 2008 Toyota Camry, the complaints are too numerous to go into detail. Some owners have reported power train problems, while others have experienced speed control malfunctions. Leaking fuel plagued some owners, and many more reported visibility problems from windshield glare due to a design flaw. 

Stay tuned for the next cars ranked on the Complaint Index.

Jeep Wrangler & Mitsubishi Outlander – Top Lemons

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 14th, 2008

In a previous post, we discussed the Center for Auto Safety’s Car Complaint Index. Anytime you’re in the market for a new car, it pays to check out the complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While the number of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle’s a lemon, it can be helpful to understand the types of problems that are cropping up with the model you’re considering.

But, back to the Complaint Index. As we discussed in an earlier post, numbers 10 and 9 on the list were the Volkswagen Passat and the Volkswagen Rabbit, respectively. Today we’ll talk about number eight, the Jeep Wrangler, and number seven, the Mitsubishi Outlander. 

Looking at the NHTSA complaints for the Wrangler, it’s easy to see why it made the list. There are several electrical system complaints and leaky roof complaints, and one where the owner described a “death wobble.” Most disturbingly, though, one owner wrote, “I was driving to a local state park when my vehicle burst into flames in the engine compartment area…. There was a pop and the vehicle lost drive power at the same time the flames shot out from under the drivers’ side engine compartment.” Sounds terrifying….Then there are dozens and dozens leaky Wrangler cases as well.

To date, the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander has three Technical Service Bulletins, two of which involve the electrical system software and engine control module software. It’s even chalked up a recall for vehicles that don’t have an electric power seat. According to the recall, the floor harness connector for the power seat is placed directly on the floorboard, so that snow and road salt could come into contact with the connector, corroding it and allowing current to flow. The result? A fire.

We’ll post the next two vehicles on the list in a few days.