A federal appeals court reinstated a proposed California statewide class-action lawsuit accusing Nissan of installing defective hydraulic clutch systems, which can cause a clutch pedal to stick to the floor. The suit was filed by a San Jose man, who claimed he had to spend more than $700 to replace the clutch system on his new 2012 Nissan 370Z. The judge, however, initially ruled the claim could not qualify as a class action because the owners' claims would vary widely, depending on how their individual clutch systems performed and how long they drove their vehicles before experiencing issues. However, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found that the suit was based on a claim shared by all owners of the vehicles: that Nissan had “knowingly designed a defective clutch system and did not inform consumers of the defect.”
According to the claim, the clutch system originally had an aluminum-plastic alloy that could not properly absorb heat, which caused the system to overload. The claim includes internal memorandum demonstrating the fact that the automaker was aware of “frequent claims of clutch pedal sticking to floor” had created a “breakdown item.” Nissan issued a service bulletin in 2013 instructing dealers to replace the clutch systems but has never notified consumers.
Fortunately, no major accidents or injuries have been associated with this defect. This is not always the case when an automaker installs a defective part. Defective airbags, installed by Takata, were installed in models put out by 19 different automakers on both the driver's and passenger's side. Cars with the airbags were released from 2002-2015. The airbags were found to have the ability to deploy explosively. The airbag's inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, was found to have the ability to ignite with explosive force, rupturing the inflator's housing. This housing contains metal shards, which could be sprayed throughout the passenger area of the car, injuring or even killing car occupants. The airbags were recalled, in what was deemed “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”
Another auto defect involving vehicle pedals was the much-publicized Toyota accelerator pedal recall. Between 2000 and May 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received more than 6,200 complaints about Toyota vehicles suddenly and uncontrollably accelerating. The crashes associated with the problem had resulted in 89 deaths and 57 injuries. Toyota maintains that its pedals were not to blame, at one time suggesting the issue had to do with floor mats in its vehicles. After intensive investigations, Toyota issued a recall that brought 8 million vehicles back to its facilities. The automaker finally admitted to covering up a defect with the gas pedal that caused the unintended acceleration issue and paid $1.2 billion in fines for their role in the crashes.