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Nissan recalling 319K Versa vehicles

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Under government pressure, Nissan Motor Co. said it will recall 319,000 Nissan Versa cars in North America for front suspension problems.

The recall covers 2007-12 Versa small cars — including 101,000 in Canada and 218,000 sold or ever registered in "salt belt states" including Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Nissan said road salt may corrode the front coil springs, potentially resulting in the coil springs fracturing. In May, NHTSA opened an investigation after receiving 93 complaints alleging incidents of front suspension coil spring failures.

NHTSA said coil spring failures occur without warning and can happen at any speed. One complaint said the passenger-side coil spring fractured while traveling at 65 mph and caused a sudden tire failure by cutting the inner sidewall 360 degrees. Another complaint said the passenger-side coil spring fractured while traveling 40 mph and result in tire puncture and brake line failure.

Nissan told NHTSA initially it did not believe the issue posed an unreasonable safety risk. Nissan conducted testing "that showed that a fractured spring would result in a noticeable difference in the posture of the vehicle as well as audible noise to warn the operator of the issue. Nissan’s testing also demonstrated that in the event of a tire puncture, the driver could maintain vehicle control during turning and braking and could bring the vehicle to a safe, controlled stop."

The automaker said it was "not aware of any incidents involving a crash, property damage, injury or fatality attributed to the subject issue." The reports of tire damage was 0.05 percent and it argued that NHTSA had agreed in the past that it wasn't a safety issue.

After continued talks with NHTSA and Transport Canada, the company agreed to a regional recall campaign.

NHTSA has taken a much tougher line with automakers this year, pushing companies to recall vehicles after they had initially declined.