Unintended Acceleration in Audi 5000S – Part I

New generation of defects for a new generation of high technology cars- unintended acceleration in Audi 5000S

The Audi 5000S, considered to be one of the best-built automobiles in the world, is the center of a controversy around a problem, called “unintended acceleration”. Unintended acceleration is a phenomenon marked by an unplanned and uncontrollable movement by the vehicle. The driver would be totally unable to stop the car no matter how hard he or she may apply pressure to the brake pedal.

The Audi 5000, first introduced in 1978, it was the flagship model for Audi’s American distributor, Volkswagen of America. In just seven years its sales were more than doubled in the U.S, so were the consumer complaints. The consumers complained of an unexpected sudden acceleration without notice.

  • Audi 5000 drivers complained, the car would accelerate, often with devastating results
  • Since the late 1970s hundreds of Audi drivers in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe have reported sudden acceleration problems with the Audi 5000 series or its foreign equivalent
  • There have been 1500 sudden acceleration accidents reported in Audi 5000s and more than 400 people have been injured when their Audi 5000s sped out of control in the United States. Seven people have died
  • The accidents have been strikingly similar

The car idles normally in the “park” position, but when the automatic transmission is shifted into “drive” or “reverse,” the car suddenly accelerates without warning. Drivers try braking, but the car fails to stop before hitting cars, trees, walls or people.

  • Audi AG – the West German affiliate of Volkswagen that makes the Audi 5000 – has steadfastly denied that the car is defective. Instead, Audi has
  • Consistently blamed the cars’ drivers for the accidents and
  • Exonerated the Audi’s sudden acceleration.

Accidents continued increase in numbers with Audi sudden acceleration problem in the 19781987 Audi 5000 cars.

  • The Audi 5000’s sudden acceleration occurs more frequently than any auto defect ever investigated by the U.S. government.
  • By 1987, one out of every 170 Audi 5000s had had a sudden acceleration accident, according to the Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a national consumer organization.
  • By comparison, the infamous Firestone 500 tires were recalled with an accident rate of 1-in15 000.

The Audi 5000 series, at $23,000, was designed to compete with the Volvo, BMW, Cadillac and other luxury cars. It was Marketed under the slogan, “Audi – The Art of Engineering,” after the car was redesigned in 1984. There are an estimated quarter of a million Audi 5000 cars on the road in the United States.

By early 1982, 107 consumers had complained to Audi about a sudden acceleration accident. At the behest of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Audi conducted the first of five recalls to diffuse the problem.

  • Audi theorized to NHTSA that a floor mat stuck underneath the accelerator pedal could cause the accelerator to stick while decelerating
  • To remedy this, Audi proposed installing a plastic device to keep the pedal clear of the floor mat
  • In April, 1982, NHTSA agreed and all 1978 to 1982 cars were recalled

By installing a floor mat device Audi could give the appearance of fixing the car to the government, but denied that there was any mechanical problem with the cars.

CAS reported receiving accident reports on the Audi 5000, after the floor mat recall, NHTSA once again put pressure on Audi to take action.

  • Audi argued that drivers unfamiliar with the car may have been unknowingly stepping on both the brake and the accelerator pedal when they applied the brake
  • In late 1983 Audi initiated a second recall of the car to installed a plate: This is to elevate the brake pedal above the accelerator pedal
  • They hoped to make it more difficult for a person to step on the two pedals at once without realizing it
  • The device was installed on all 1978 through 1983 cars and incorporated into the later models

Despite the floor mat and the staggered pedals, however, Audi sudden acceleration accidents continued.


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