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Two major vehicle recalls announced by Honda and Toyota

Modern cars are typically very safe. The highway fatality statistic underscores this point. At one time, back in the 1970s, when there were fewer cars and fewer miles driven, there were many more fatalities. In fact, the record year for highway fatalities was 1972, with 54,589 deaths. However, of course, radial tires and safety belts were still a new idea, and ABS brakes, stability control were still decades away.

Nevertheless, that does not mean some of the safety improvements don't introduce their own risks when something malfunctions. The last few years, Toyota has faced a host of problems related to unintended acceleration, and has recalled 14 million vehicles.

Honda Motor Co. announced Thursday a recall of 2004 and 2005 Odyssey minivans, the Acura RL, the MDX SUV and Honda Pilot SUV. The problem was related to the vehicle stability assist (VSA) system. The VSA is intended to work by triggering slight braking action to prevent the wheels from spinning or skidding.

In the recalled vehicles, the VSA system malfunctions by either randomly applying the brakes when the vehicle is in motion, or could potentially exaggerate the braking action by the driver, leading to a loss of control and a vehicle crash.

Just today, Toyota announcing yet another recall of 2.5 million vehicles in the United States due to risk of fire. Worldwide the Toyota recall includes more than 7 million vehicles and is the largest since a Ford recall in 1996.

The problems on Toyotas this time involve fires in the door caused by a driver door stitch sticking. Attempts to fix the switch can lead to lubricants smoking and catching fire. No crashes or injuries have been reported due to this problem.

Source: Reuters, "Honda to recall 250,000 vehicles globally for braking problems," March 13, 2013

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