Auto blogSat, 09 Aug 2014 12:00:00 EST
Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:14:00 EST
The stiff punishments are part of broader transportation legislation, but clearly McCaskill has automakers in her sights.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill threw down the gauntlet this week, proposing a bill that could send auto executives to prison for life if they were found to have delayed a recall. She also wants to eliminate the limit for fines for auto safety violations, which are currently capped at $35 million.
Following last week's mild uproar after it was discovered that Ford and General Motors were removing some optional parts from their pickups to lower the curb weight and consequently increase the maximum payload, GM has come out and committed to a base curb weight for its upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon compact trucks (although it has yet to publish them) and its current Silverado and Sierra. The company will do the same for its heavy duty offerings, although those numbers have not been finalized yet.
"This will make our curb weight and payload specs more consistent with those of most other truck makers, making it easier for customers to compare vehicles," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson told Autoblog in an emailed statement.
As GM notes - and as every manufacturer has noted since this story broke - customers still shouldn't take max payload ratings as gospel. Instead, they should refer to their truck's Tire and Load Label, like the one shown at the inset, which will offer detailed information on max payload, specific to their truck.
It's not unusual for there to be a lag between an automaker announcing a recall and the official documentation showing up on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. So it's no surprise that a recent GM campaign took about a month to appear in its official capacity. However, there appears to be some big differences between the two reports with potential safety implications.
In late June, GM announced that it needed to recall 181,984 examples of the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Buick Rainier, GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender and Saab 9-7x from the 2005-2007 model years, plus the 2006 Chevy Trailblazer EXT and 2006 GMC Envoy XL. The new documents paint a slightly different picture with 184,611 needing repaired and different model years listed.
The reason for the fix is still the same, though. It's possible for fluid to contact the master power window switch module in the driver's door, which can corrode the part. Eventually this could cause a short circuit, leaving the buttons inoperable and potentially leading to a fire. But the new NHTSA documents add an important note: "A fire could occur even while the vehicle is not in use. As a precaution, owners are advised to park outside until the remedy has been made."
General Motors has just announced pricing for its new midsize pickup trucks, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Chevy's truck starts at $20,100, *not including $895 for destination, and the GMC starts at $20,995, **not including $925 for destination. These prices are for the base, extended cab models with the 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine.
Comparatively, these prices fit nicely with the $18,125 starting MSRP of the Toyota Tacoma and the $21,510 of the Nissan Frontier. Compared to the Colorado, the Canyon's extra $895 gets you niceties like LED running lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a four-way power driver's seat.
Both trucks come standard with the 2.5-liter engine, and a more powerful, 305-hp 3.6-liter V6 will also be available. Pricing has not been announced for the upcoming diesel model, which is expected to launch for the 2016 model year.
The row between Ford and Ram over who boasts the best-in-class tow rating for heavy duty pickups has revealed a number of things. Chief among them is a report that Ford removes items like the spare tire, jack, radio and center console from its vehicles in a bid to lower its base curb weight and therefore keep the truck's gross vehicle weight rating down.
For those that need a refresher, GVWR is the vehicle's curb weight plus its maximum payload. A lower GVWR allows Ford to station its F-450 among the so-called Class III pickups, despite the fact that internally, it has the makings of a more brutish Class IV truck.
Ford explains away these deletions, saying a customer could order their vehicle in such a manner. It has also come to light that Ford is not the only automaker to engage in such practices.
The invitation to come out and sample product at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, MI is rarely dull, and after spending this morning driving preproduction versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon all we can say is... under strict embargo. Sorry, America, we were as excited as many of you are to learn more about GM's new midsize truck range and take note of how they go down the road, but it's going to be September before we're allowed to share that with all of you. Here's to sweet suspense.
While we might not be able to talk about refinement or handling yet, we did find some of the product positioning and marketing statements from GMC and Chevy officials on hand at the program to be pretty interesting.
Of course, we all know that the literal competitive set for Canyon and Colorado is comprised of two comparatively ancient Japanese midsize trucks: the Toyota Tacoma (which currently owns this segment) and the Nissan Frontier. The Frontier's bones are as old as the 2005 model year, with 2009 marking the last time the truck was updated. The Taco was also launched in 2005, though it did see a freshening for 2012. The point remains that, in every facet from powertrain to dash plastics, the GM midsize truck twins are going to look positively space age by comparison when they hit the market for MY 2015.
General Motors has announced yet another sprawling recall campaign, with six separate elements covering 717,950 vehicles on US roads. At this point in 2014, it's starting to seem like there are more days with a GM recall than without. Perhaps most troubling about this latest volley, though, is that every vehicle is from the past few years, indicating that GM's quality woes may not be limited to pre-bankruptcy vehicles.
The largest element of this latest campaign covers 414,333 units, and includes the 2011 to 2012 Chevrolet Camaro, 2010 to 2012 Chevy Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX and the 2011 to 2012 Buick Regal and LaCrosse. Only vehicles with powered, height-adjustable seats are covered. In these particular cars and crossovers, the bolt that secures the height adjuster actuator may loosen of its own accord and in some cases fall out completely. If this happens, the seats will be able to move both up and down. GM claims the vehicles are safe to drive, provided drivers don't vertically adjust their seats. This particular issue has caused one crash and three injuries.
The largest element of this latest campaign covers 414,333 units, including the Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox, GMC Terrain, Cadillac SRX and the Buick Regal and LaCrosse.
When viewed alongside the next Ford F-150 and the Ram 1500, there is one thing that seems to be missing from the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. Where the F-150 will rely on turbocharging and aluminum architecture and the Ram sports an eight-speed automatic and an air suspension, the General Motors twins lack a big, calling-card feature. They're very good, very refined trucks, but one could argue that they're not terribly innovative.
And while it might not be as flashy a feature as air suspension or a lightweight skin, the Silverado and Sierra will get their own eight-speed automatic for 2015, a transmission that will be paired with the company's Ecotec3 6.2-liter V8. The new cogswapper will also find its way into the GMC Yukon Denali, but for now, there's no indication why the Cadillac Escalade, Suburban, Tahoe and standard Yukon are being left out.
According to GM, the new gearbox is about the same size and weight as the current Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed. By the time the new powertrain combination enters production late this year, the EPA will almost certainly have gotten around to certifying the vehicles' fuel efficiency. Until then, feel free to speculate. The current Silverado with the 6.2 and six-speed auto returns 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway. How much do you think the eight-speed will improve those figures? Scroll down for the official press blast from General Motors, and then head into Comments.
Fans of truck-based, light-duty vans can officially pour one out for the Chevrolet Express 1500 and GMC Savana 1500, as General Motors has officially put its long-serving big/little rigs out to pasture. Things aren't quite as sad as they sound, though. The heavier-duty 2500 and 3500 vans will soldier on, in order to duke it out with the largest members of Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter families.
The move does seem to make a lot of sense. According to GM, customers only purchase the 1500-spec Chevrolet 23 percent of the time, while the GMC captures a mere 7 percent of the Savana family's sales. With numbers like that, it's no shock that GM thinks it can shift some of its buyers into its van family's more capable variants. "We knew we could move a lot of our 1500 customers into 2500-series territory," said GM's Joe Langhauser, the product manager for the company's full-size vans.
It's not just simple sales figures dictating the move, though. The 1500 line is taking up some valuable factory space that will be better spent on an eagerly anticipated new product.
Through the first six months of 2014, General Motors has recalled 29 million cars and trucks in 54 different actions. If your author's notoriously sketchy math is correct, that'd work out to one recall every 3.5 days (as of this writing). GM is actively fighting to make sure there isn't a 55th recall, though.
Safety critics, including perennial nemesis Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety, are calling on GM to recall a further six million pickup trucks and SUVs in northerly climes due to corroding brake lines caused by the use of road salt. There is a catch, here, though - the vehicles in question are over 10 years old, and include the 1999 to 2003 Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban and GMC Sierra, as well as the 2000 to 2003 Tahoe and Yukon (shown above).
GM issued the following statement on the matter, obtained by CNN Money: