Unintended Acceleration In Audi 5000S – Part II

The New York area victims worked with NYPIRG to form their own organization, the Audi Victims Network were petitioning NHTSA to investigate and recall the car.

Manager of product liaison then reported the results of Audi’s investigation into 93 cars that had had a sudden acceleration accident and announced that :

  • There were common traits shared by all the sudden acceleration accident victims
  • The driver’s were inexperienced with Audi 5000s
  • Most did not own the Audi
  • Most instances occurred below 6,000 miles
  • Most of the drivers were smaller than average, below five foot five inches

Audi hurriedly announced a few sops that:

  • It would conduct its third recall
  • Readjust the accelerator pedal and brake pedal to
  • Provide more foot room and thereby
  • Reduce the possibility of the misapplication of the pedals
  • Provide free audio cassettes to Audi drivers to re-acquaint drivers with proper seating position and driver controls.

NYPIRG surveyed over 200 drivers that experienced sudden acceleration problems and found that;

  • Many of the company’s claims unfounded
  • The drivers looked pretty normal
  • They tended to be familiar with the car
  • Had driven many years
  • They were in the safest driving ages
  • They were a full inch above the national height average reported by the national center for health statistics
  • 85 percent of the drivers reported having their foot on the brake at the onset of acceleration
  • Most of those who did not had the car suddenly accelerate while driving
  • Less than 10 percent of the people said the brakes eventually stopped the car

Automatic Shift Lock Device

So fast was word spreading on the Audi 5000 in New York City, that parking garages began posting signs refusing to park Audi 5000 cars.

Audi announced in July 1986, a fourth recall that it said would stop most of the sudden acceleration problems once and for all with an “automatic shift lock device” as the solution.

It implies that

  • A modification is being made to the automatic transmission,
  • The device merely connects a sensor to the brake lights so that
  • Drivers must touch the brake pedal before moving the gear shift out of the park position

The Audi Victims Network says the device will not address the accidents documented by their group.

  • In August 1986, NHTSA upgraded the Audi 5000 case to a formal “defect investigation” – the highest priority the agency has for an investigation. And a special segment of “60 Minutes” coupled with pressure from Congress, spurred NHTSA to act quickly.
  • In December, 1986 NHTSA announced that it would request Audi to voluntarily recall its 5000 series cars
  • The Audi 5000 had become the most publicized auto defect since the Ford Pinto and the General Motors Corvair

In its recall, NHTSA merely asked Audi to install the shift lock device and change idle stabilizer valves, two things the company was already doing. And even Audi maintained that while a faulty idle stabilizer valve may cause irregular idle, it could not induce sudden acceleration.

Audi eagerly accepted the rehabilitation of the shift lock device as a credible answer to sudden acceleration and attempted to rehabilitate its image. The company modified its public relations line by saying Audi was no longer blaming the drivers for the problem and that the new device would correct the problem with the car.

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