The accident rate for the Audi 5000 sudden acceleration defect was already 1 in 900, one of the highest on record. The problems in the cruise control systems and in the transmission are overlooked.
When Audi management highlighted a floor mat interfering with the pedals was causing the sudden acceleration, and NHTSA stopped its investigation into the car. Audi did not provide the complaints and NHTSA officials did not take any follow-up action to obtain them.
Without the 107 complaints, Audi had only inspected a small percentage of the reported cars and even though the company had failed to provide proof that floor mats were responsible for the sudden acceleration accidents.
Drivers who had the shift lock device installed in their cars were reporting accidents. Less than two months after those installations began, and before Audi installed the devices as part of a safety recall, the Center For Auto Safety warned that the devices were not working.
- Three accidents had already occurred in shift-lock equipped Audis – an accident rate that was higher than on Audis without the device.”
- Of the small number of cars which do have the shift-lock device, nearly 40 accidents have been reported, according to CAS
- The shift lock flies in the face of the facts of virtually every runaway Audi accident ever reported to NHTSA
- Drivers consistently report that their foot was not on the accelerator when they shifted from park to drive or reverse – yet the car still accelerated uncontrollably
Audi’s sales for February, 1987 were down 56 percent from the year before for the 5000 series and down 58 percent for Audi cars overall.
- In April, Audi took two new steps to bolster its declining image. First, the company sent certificates worth $5000 off the purchase of any new 1987 Audi to owners of 1984 to 1986 cars
- Resale values have dropped drastically for Audi 5000 owners
- Owners with 1986 cars find their cars are only getting $11,000, a 50 percent depreciation in one year
- The 1984 cars are only getting $2,000 on trade-ins and
- Older cars are virtually un-tradable
Audi discontinued the Audi 5000 name and in 1988, the car was known as the Audi 100, a name the car started under in Europe as a desperate attempt at cosmetic changes instead of finding the problem and fixing it.
Defective Regulation: Accelerating Accidents
- On August 15, 1986, the same day that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it would conduct a defect investigation for the Audi 5000, it dropped a similar investigation of sudden acceleration in 60 million 1973 to 1986 General Motors cars with automatic transmissions.
- The investigation involved over 3,000 accidents and 100 deaths with sudden ‘ acceleration accidents.
- The agency dismissed the problem as being one which was caused primarily by driver error.
- Despite NHTSA’s explanation for the problem, sudden acceleration remains an industry-wide concern.
- NHTSA is investigating sudden acceleration in 1980-85 Nissan 280z/300z cars, 1983-84 AMC Alliance/Encore models, 1981-84 Toyota Cressidas and 1982-85 General Motors J-cars, 1985-86 Dodge-Plymouth Colts and 198687 Honda Accords LXI.
- But the agency is not expected to take action on these cases: Since 1980 NHTSA has closed sudden acceleration investigations into 13 car models
For sudden acceleration problems, private engineers have theorized that
- Faulty computer components could cause the computer control systems to malfunction,
- It sends messages to the car to accelerate when it should not.
- these malfunctions would not leave any evidence that could easily be detected
- Most people are focusing on the car’s electronic controls: The person shifts and for some reason the computer gives the wrong signal and opens up the throttle
- This is a new generation of defects for a new generation of high technology cars Unlike the earlier defect investigations that often involved a single defective part, sudden acceleration is an example of a system failure