Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2004   by CARS Magazine

What’s New… (April 01, 2004)

GM Compacts, Mid-Size Vehicles Recalled...

GM Compacts, Mid-Size Vehicles Recalled

General Motors is recalling about 1.8 million model year 1998-2001 cars. The models involved are certain 1998-2001 Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires built between March 1997 and April 2001. Also, some 1998 Pontiac Grand Am, Oldsmobile Achieva, and Buick Skylark cars built between March 1997 and January 1998 are being recalled. Of the total, about 1.4 million of the vehicles are in the U.S. and approximately 337,000 are in Canada. The remaining vehicles are outside these countries.

These vehicles will be serviced to prevent high electrical current flow through the ignition switch that may cause a fire in the steering column.

There have been reports of 80 incidents of heat build up, melted components smoldering parts, or fires in the ignition system and steering column. There are no injuries or fatalities related to this condition. There are no reports of a fire caused by this condition while these vehicles are being driven. Most of the incidents occurred within minutes of an unsuccessful attempt to start the car; however, some incidents occurred after the car had been unattended for a longer time.

In some of these vehicles, the ignition switch may deteriorate if the battery is weak, the engine fails to crank, and the driver holds the key in the “start” position for an extended period. High current flows through the ignition switch and sometimes produces enough heat to melt internal switch parts. If the switch is damaged, the plastic internal components may heat up, melt, or eventually smolder or ignite. This could occur even with the engine off and the key removed. If operators experience a “click-no-crank” condition in these vehicles, they should refrain from holding the key in the start position for an extended period of time.

Due to the large number of vehicles involved in the recall, the repair process is occurring in three phases. Beginning in early March, GM began notifying owners of the 1998-99 vehicles involved in this recall. The owners of 2000 model year vehicles will be notified in May, asking them to contact dealers in May to arrange a service date, and the owners of 2001 model year vehicles will be contacted in June with service instructions for that month. All owners will be instructed to bring their vehicles into their Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac dealers. Dealers will install a low current relay into the ignition circuit. Additionally, they will test the ignition switch and, if necessary, replace it. These repairs will be performed at no cost to the customers.

“Big Three” Vehicles More Reliable Than Europeans: Consumer Group

The Yonkers, New York-based Consumer Reports annual auto reliability survey shows that new vehicles from Detroit’s Big Three automakers are now slightly more reliable, on average, than those from European makers. The survey also shows that vehicles from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler tend to hold up better than European makes as time passes. Overall, the most reliable vehicles continue to be built by Asian automakers in Japan and Korea.

Consumer Reports’ statistical analysis for each manufacturer is based upon the number of problems per 100 vehicles. The survey shows that among cars less than a year old, the average problem rate for European cars was 20 per 100 vehicles. For domestic cars and trucks, the problem rate was lower at 18 problems per 100. The average problem rate for all 2003 vehicles covered in the survey (including domestic, European, and Asian brands) was 17 problems per 100 vehicles. In Consumer Reports’ 2002 subscriber survey, U.S. and European automakers were tied at about 21 problems per 100.

The problem rate for the newest models among all Japanese and Korean vehicles held steady in the survey at 12 problems per 100. Vehicles from Acura, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, and Toyota have been the most reliable makes over the past five model years, based on the average problem rates.

Ontario Repair Association Consults with Provincial Ministry on Updated Safety Guidelines

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has asked for the assistance of The Automotive Aftermarket Retailers of Ontario (AARO) in updating Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Guidelines. A joint MTO/AARO ad hoc committee has been formed to undertake the project. According to AARO, everyone involved is agreed the work to be done is both important and long overdue, as advances in automotive technology caught up to MTO’s inspection guidelines many years ago. In a statement published on the AARO website, the association declared: “The sorry state of the guidelines resulted from changes in government and other political roadblocks. (MTO’s civil service won’t tell you that, but we will … and we just did.) But let’s not belabour the reason they’ve become outdated; the good news is that the work required to update the guidelines is now underway.”

Volunteering for the advisory group are:

Shop owner Gerrard De Souza (Gerry and Son’s Auto Service — Markham); shop owner Bill Jackson (Sonic Auto — Burlington); well-known Instructor Glenn McNally; shop owner Brian Taylor (Brian Taylor’s Automotive — Burlington) and technician Jeff Taylor (Bruce Eccles Auto Service Inc. — Dundas).

AARO executive director Bill Burkimsher said the association’s representatives bring impeccable credentials and a nice balance of experience to the table. “Three hands-on, technically astute shop owners; a technician who aced the regional finals and went on to represent Canada in AC Delco’s ‘Technician of the Millennium’ competition (Jeff Taylor-ed); and one of the country’s finest technical trainers — I’d say that’s an elite working group,” enthused Burkimsher.

“I want to personally thank our volunteers for their generous commitment of time and effort in support of this important undertaking,” commented AARO president Dave Peck. “And I encourage all members to submit suggestions and ideas to assist them with their work.”

Bosch Lobbies U.S. for More Diesels

Global automotive supplier Robert Bosch has long touted support for diesel’s advantages, but it has vowed to make a strong push this year to convince U.S. automakers of the engine technology’s advantages that much of the rest of the world already know.

According to an article in OEM trade publication Automotive News, Robert Bosch says it will make a big one-year push to convince U.S. automakers that its diesel technology can meet tougher 2007 U.S. emissions standards. Senior Bosch executives are tightly focused on the effort and research spending has shifted even more toward cutting emissions. If Bosch succeeds, demand for diesels might eventually reach 20 percent in the world’s largest auto market within 10 years, said Bernd Bohr, head of Bosch’s automotive business.

If not, hybrid technology led by the Japanese may become the primary alternative to gasoline engines in U.S. clean-air efforts. U.S. automakers want a guarantee that Bosch can successfully meet the 2007 U.S. air-quality standards. Bosch believes that if automakers can be convinced that the future potential is 20 percent of the light vehicle fleet, they will design engine bays for diesels. In Europe, almost 44 percent of new car registrations were diesels.

Toyota, Ford Sign Hybrid, Emissions Technology Agreement

Toyota Motor Corporation and Ford Motor Company have announced the conclusion of licensing agreements for hybrid system and emissions technology patents. Under the agreements, Toyota hybrid system control technology patents were licensed for use in Ford’s own hybrid system, which is under development. Ford’s own hybrid system will feature more than 100 unique patents. Ford will introduce a hybrid-electric version of its popular Escape sport-utility vehicle. It will be the world’s first full hybrid SUV when it is introduced later this summer.

Toyota, which launched the Toyota Prius as the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in 1997 and has now sold more than 200,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide. In 2002, Toyota and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. concluded a basic agreement on the long-term, technical cooperation, including hybrid systems.

At the same time, Ford and Toyota concluded an agreement that covers licensing a variety of each company’s technology patents for lean-burn engines. Toyota patents licensed to Ford and Ford group companies involve the firm’s NOx storage reduction three-way catalytic converter system. Ford patents licensed to Toyota involve NOx control and Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) technology.

Manpower Survey Predicts Active Job Market in Second Quarter

Job seekers can look forward to an active job market for the second quarter of 2004 as Canadian employers reveal optimistic staffing plans in the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey. According to more than 1,700 Canadian employers polled for the survey, 30 per cent expect to add staff while six per cent plan to reduce the number of employees for the April to June period, resulting in a Net Employment Outlook of 24 per cent. Sixty-one per cent anticipate no changes and three per cent are unsure of their hiring intentions.

“These results are a significant improvement from the first quarter and indicate a positive climate for the second quarter,” said Deborah Bakti, spokesperson for Manpower Canada. “The second quarter typically signifies an improvement in hiring plans and this quarter is in line with expectations.”

The second quarter Net Employment Outlook is up one per cent from the same time last year and up 23 per cent from three months ago when the Net Employment Outlook was one per cent, indicating a subdued start to the year.

“Hiring projections across all four Canadian regions are similar to the national outlook,” said Bakti. “Atlantic Canada leads with a Net Employment Outlook of 31 per cent, ahead of Western Canada and Quebec at 27 and 23 per cent respectively. Ontario has the lowest regional Net Employment Outlook at 21 per cent.”

Across industry sectors, employers in the Construction, Wholesale & Retail Trades and Services sectors are most optimistic regarding their hiring plans for the second quarter. Optimistic results are expected in the Public Administration, Manufacturing – Non-durable Goods and Transportation & Public Utilities sectors. A weaker picture is reported in the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate, Manufacturing – Durable Goods and Education sectors.

Right to Repair Legislation Get Boost in U.S.

U.S. independents may see relief on the access to information front soon as a U.S. senator has brought right to repair legislation before the Senate. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair legislation to the Senate on February 26, according to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA). Similar to legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill will ensure that motorists retain the right to choose how and by whom their vehicles are maintained and repaired.

“The introduction of S. 2138 by Senator Graham represents another milestone in the battle to obtain passage of this critical legislation needed to ensure the future competitiveness of the independent aftermarket,” stated Kathleen Schmatz, AAIA president and CEO.

“Independents do not have the luxury of depending on the promises of the vehicle manufacturers,” said Schmatz, adding “Our service industry needs affordable and effective access to tools and information, not just this year, but for many years to come. The only way to make sure this happens is through passage of effective right to repair legislation.”

At present, no similar legislation exists in Canada.

GM Recalls 2000 – 2004 Pickups For Tailgate Cables

General Motors is recalling about 4 million 2000-2004 model-year full-size pickups worldwide to replace tailgate support cables that may corrode and fracture. The models involved are certain 2000-2004 Chevrolet Silverado’s and GMC Sierra’s built between October 1999 and October 2003. Also, some 2002-04 Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade EXT trucks built between March 2001 and October 2003 are being recalled. Of the total, about 3.7 million of the vehicles are in the U.S., approximately 325,000 are in Canada, and about 93,000 are in Mexico. The remaining vehicles are outside these countries. In these models, GM will replace the existing galvanized, braided steel support cables with stainless steel support cables. These replacements will be performed at no cost to the customers.

If the cables are corroded, they may fracture when loads are applied to the tailgate. If both cables were to fracture, the tailgate would open an additional ten-degrees, rest on the top surface of the rear bumper, and remain supported by the bumper. The tailgate would drop to a lower position only if the owner had previously removed the rear bumper.

There have been reports of 134 minor injuries related to this condition but no crashes or fatalities.

Due to the large number of vehicles involved in this recall, the replacement cables will not be available immediately, so the notification and repair process will occur in phases. However, in the meantime, GM will advise owners to avoid applying direct loads to the tailgate until the cables can be inspected and, if necessary, replaced. During the third quarter of this year, GM will begin notifying the first round of owners of the vehicles involved in this recall. They will be instructed to contact their Chevrolet, GMC, or Cadillac dealers to arrange for service. If an owner experiences a fracture of the tailgate support cables, the customer should contact the dealer to arrange for service as soon as possible.

Drivers More Likely to Regain Control with Stability Technology: Study

A university study found that drivers are more likely to regain control of a vehicle if it is equipped with stability control technology.

According to the study by the University of Iowa, drivers faced with a loss-of-vehicle control situation are about one-third more likely to maintain control if their vehicle is equipped with an electronic stability control system.

The research was conducted on behalf of the Electronic Stability Control Coalition. The group is a joint effort of Robert Bosch Corporation and Continental Teves, who sell such systems, to promote their benefits to drivers.

The Iowa study used a simulator to test driver performance when a vehicle veers out of its lane, is hit by a wind gust or begins to run off the road in a curve. Subjects attempted the three maneuvers with the electronic stability control system on and again with the system switched off.

Research overseas, where such systems are more widely used, suggest electronic stability control may prevent up to 50 percent of single-vehicle crashes. The technology is optional on many vehicles offered in North America, but the coalition says few buyers ask for it, largely because they don’t understand what it does.

Short Lines

Uni-Select and AutoGroup have reached an agreement for the supply of parts to the buying group. AutoGroup, formerly known as the Canadian Automotive Buying Group (CABG) is comprised of 60 member independent shops across Canada. AutoGroup members specialize in exhaust, brake and maintenance work. UniSelect will supply the group through distribution centres in Moncton, Edmonton, Toronto, and Burnaby. Local Uni-Select members will supply other parts under a local program.

The inventor of the halogen lamp, Edward Zubler, has died following spinal surgery. The General Electric Co. research chemist began experimenting with halogen lighting in 1953. The addition of halogen gases reduced deposits on the tungsten filaments of incandescent lamps, increasing the light output and extending bulb life. Halogen bulbs debuted in 1959. Zubler, who has been recognized by the Smithsonian Institution for his work, was 79.

Akebono Corporation is introducing the ProACT Brake Bucks incentive program for aftermarket jobbers and installers this spring. The promotion will run April 1 — June 30, 2004. Akebono will be rewarding jobbers and installers instantly with American Express Gift Checks when they purchase qualifying orders of ProACT Ultra-Premium Ceramic Disc Brake Pads through their distributors.

Promotion Details:

Purchase 10 sets of ProACT brake pads, receive a $25 American Express Gift Check

Purchase 5 sets of ProACT brake pads, receive a $10 American Express Gift Check

Late-model Pontiac Grands Prix have a software glitch that causes the vehicle’s computer display to show the wrong day of the week. According to Reuters, Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson declared, “Somehow or other, the fact that this was a leap year got missed. We are working on a solution.” GM will likely fix the problem by resetting the software.

Brian Thomas has resigned from his post as National Technical Director for CASCAR. Thomas has acted as National Technical Director for the past 7 years. “This was a very difficult decision for me to make,” stated Thomas, “I have enjoyed my time with CASCAR a great deal, but my family commitments for the upcoming year make it impossible for me to take on the travel commitments that come with this position. I will miss my involvement with CASCAR and all the co-workers, teams, and sponsors who have become friends over the years, but unfortunately this is a direction I must go at this time.”

“Brian Thomas has been an integral part of our organization for a long time,” commented CASCAR president Tony Novotny, “and we are very sad that he will be unable to continue in his position as National Technical Director for the 2004 season. Brian did a great job during his tenure with us and has made a great contribution to our current rules package. We wish Brian the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

No Change to Ontario Drive Clean I/M Program in 2004

Media reports stating that the Ontario Government is scrapping the Drive Clean I/M program are incorrect, states the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. According to Art Chamberlain, spokesman for Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, “There are no plans to remove the Drive Clean program in the immediate future.” Chamberlain noted that standards are in fact getting tougher, initially for heavy trucks and buses, with new light-duty standards to follow. “The program will be reviewed in 2006 as originally planned. No change could happen before 2008 at the earliest.”

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