Nissan Motor Co. said Friday it will recall nearly 300,000 cars in the United States under government pressure because of unintended acceleration risks linked to a trim panel as safety officials upgrade a new separate investigation into almost 1 million Nissan vehicles.
The Japanese automaker had resisted recalling 298,747 2012-15 Versa and Versa Note cars even as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation in August 2014. The safety agency upgraded its probe to an engineering analysis in June.
Nissan says the right edge of the driver’s shoe may catch the edge of the center console lower trim panel. Nissan initially told NHTSA it didn’t think it was a safety issue, saying there were no U.S. warranty claims and the U.S. consumer complaint rate was 0.0031 percent of vehicles produced.
Several automakers in recent months have issued recalls after U.S. safety regulators demanded them — a sign of the agency’s tougher stance.
Separately, NHTSA said Friday it is upgrading an investigation into 986,000 Nissan 2013-14 vehicles because the vehicles may misclassify adult front passenger occupants and turn off, or deactivate, the passenger's frontal air bag. That probe stems from nearly 1,300 complaints over how a 2014 Nissan recall was carried out.
NHTSA said it is ordering an engineering analysis “to conduct a comparative assessment and further evaluate the effectiveness of the recall remedy which will include a thorough review of the countermeasures taken by Nissan.”
In the recall announced Friday, Nissan had said earlier it planned to address the acceleration issue with a service campaign.
In February, Nissan said it was making a design improvement — a shorter console panel so that the leading edge is at a greater distance from the driver’s foot. Instead, Nissan launched a service campaign to modify the console trim panel. Dealers will modify the trim panel under the recall.
On July 15, Nissan met with NHTSA to update officials on the service campaign repairs and to “further consult on the subject condition and the appropriate campaign classification.” Less than a month later, Nissan agreed to a formal recall.
NHTSA’s new investigation comes after a March 2014 recall of 989,000 vehicles in the United States to address issues with the electronic software overseeing the air bag system: the 2013-14 Nissan Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra and LEAF; MY 2013 Infiniti JX35; MY 2014 Infiniti QX60 and Q50; and MY 2013 Nissan NV 200/Taxi vehicles.
Nissan told NHTSA last year the air bag system may misclassify adult front passenger occupants and turn off the passenger's frontal air bag for an adult occupant of sufficient weight. Air bag systems are required to be deactivated if a child is detected in the front seat because of the risk of injuries to children.
NHTSA first opened an investigation into the recall in March after it received 124 complaints alleging problems with the airbag system after the recall repairs or other related repairs. Most complaints said the passenger air bag status light stays on — indicating passenger air bag is turned off — for adult front passengers of sufficient weight.
“Many of the complaints stated the dealers have made multiple repairs but the problem still persists,” NHTSA said.
Nissan says it has received 1,121 complaints and field reports on the recalled vehicles. To date, NHTSA says it has now received 208 complaints, for a total of 1,271 unique reports.
Nissan also said Friday it is recalling nearly 2,000 2015 Nissan Armada SUVs because they may have been built with driver or front passenger seat belt assemblies that may not properly latch or that may not unlatch when the release button is pressed.