NHTSA upgrades probe into 360,000 Nissan cars

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Federal safety regulators are upgrading an investigation into 360,000 Nissan cars over allegations a plastic piece has interfered with driver’s ability to release the accelerator pedal.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is upgrading an investigation opened last year into the 2013-2015 Nissan Versa, Versa Sedan and Versa Note cars over allegations that the plastic tunnel carpet cover trim panel has interfered with the driver's ability to promptly release the accelerator pedal and transition to the brake pedal.

NHTSA said it has reviewed 24 complaints, including one alleging the issue led to a crash and minor injuries. The crash complaint said the owner of a 2014 Versa with 70,000 miles in July 2014 was driving 45 miles per hour when her foot was stuck causing her to crash into another vehicle. The driver sustained injuries to her right toe and scratches to her left shoulder.

Some owners with large feet said they had the problem more often and at least one incident took place in a rental car. One owner was wearing work boots when he was stopped at a red light changing radio stations. As he attempted to accelerate to make a left turn, he couldn’t remove his foot from the gas pedal: “I used my right hand to grab my leg and pulled harder immediately braking hard, then backing my foot off the brake as I squealed and skidded around the corner.”

NHTSA’s upgrade to an engineering analysis is a necessary step before the agency can formally demand an automaker recall vehicles that the agency believes pose an unreasonable risk to driver safety.