Here is a new twist on unintended acceleration: unintended braking. This time Honda is in the hot seat.
This month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a recall of certain Honda Odysseys manufacturered from August 2006 to September 2008: "Due to a combination of system components and software, the Vehicle Safety Assist Systeme (VSA) may apply the brakes unexpectedly." The NHTSA report goes on to say, "The vehicle may suddenly and unexpectedly brake hard, and without illuminating the brake lights, increasing the risk of a crash from behind."
The safety alert is particularly notable for a number of reasons. First, the cars are old enough to be beyond the expiration of the new car warranties, and may have had several owners. Under a safety recall, these owners should still be entitled to repairs free of charge. Secondly, the defect occurs in the electrical and computer system, but the dangerous effect is in the braking system. Thus, service departments addressing customer brake complaints may have written up a "no problem found" repair order, when in fact it was the electrical system that should have been tested. Third, the Odyssey is a family car and children in certain car seats may be particularly vulnerable to injury in rear-end collisions. This is a serious safety issue.
Finally, NHTSA reports that the repair parts are not even available at the present time. Honda is to mail notice to owners in December advising them of the problem, right in the midst of the barrage of holiday mail. It is entirely possible that the manufacturer may not have current address information for subsequent purchasers of cars that are out of warranty. Thus, owners of the Odysseys in question should be proactive and contact Honda directly to get the recall notice. Then, Honda plans to send a second notice in 2014, when the parts become available.
Owners of the affected models may contact Honda at 1-800-999-1009. For more information, Odyssey owners should click here.