March 3, 2010
Emerson Brown, NPR
WIDESPREAD PROBLEM IN AUTO INDUSTRY
NPR ANALYSIS OF NHTSA DATA REVEALS ACCELERATION ISSUES
NOT LIMITED TO TOYOTA,
OTHER MANUFACTURERS RECEIVE SIMILAR RATES OF COMPLAINTS
NPR's Robert Benincasa compared complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in any given year to manufacturers' market share. This analysis – which generates rates of complaints rather than raw numbers – reveals that companies such as Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo have had high rates of complaints for their cars in certain model years. In some cases, automakers have resolved problems through recalls and updated technology. Benincasa's report is based on a database of 15,000 acceleration problem complaints consumers filed with federal regulators since 2000, and reach back to 1990 car models.
Though experts say a manufacturer's share of complaints and its share the market should be approximately equal, Benincasa consistently identifies years where many brands had complaints that outpaced sales. As an example, Benincasa points to Volkswagen in 2008, when the company had a market share of two percent but its share of complaints was 14.7 percent – despite using a system where the brake overrides the accelerator.
Presented with these findings, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the watchdog group Center for Auto Safety, says NHTSA regulators are not doing the kind of analysis that compares various manufacturers' complaint levels to their sales figures.
Ditlow tells NPR: "There's no one doing it as far as I know. This is the first time I've seen an analysis like this in a long time. Not since the 1980s, when sudden acceleration first hit the headlines, did we see a manufacturer-based analysis of complaints. But it's something the government could and should be doing every year."
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