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Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP12-003


American Government Topics:  Saturn Outlook

Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP12-003

Nancy Lummen Lewis
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
July 31, 2014


[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 147 (Thursday, July 31, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 44486-44487]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-17984]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, DP12-003

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation.

ACTION: Denial of petition for a defect investigation.

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SUMMARY: This document denies a petition from Mr. Peter J. Gonzalez 
(the petitioner) of Fuquay Varina, NC, requesting that the agency open 
an investigation into headlamp failures on the model year (MY) 2008 
Saturn Outlook and similar vehicles. After reviewing the petition and 
other information, NHTSA has concluded that further investigation of MY 
2007-2009 Saturn Outlook vehicles and the similar GMC Acadia vehicles 
(subject vehicles) is unlikely to result in a determination that a 
safety-related defect exists. The agency accordingly denies the 
petition.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Steve Chan, Defects Assessment 
Division, Office of Defects Investigation, NHTSA, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590. Telephone: (202) 366-8537.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Alleged Problem

    The petitioner alleges that his MY 2008 Saturn Outlook vehicle had 
experienced a loss of low beam headlamp illumination. The petitioner 
found that the headlamp harness mating to the headlamp had melted. He 
also noted that there were other complaints on NHTSA's Web site related 
to the same melting of the headlamp harness.

Loss of Headlamp Illumination

    The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 
301) defines motor vehicle safety as ``the performance of a motor 
vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public 
against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, 
construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against 
unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes 
nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.''
    Over the last 25 years, ODI has opened numerous defect 
investigations of the loss of headlamp illumination. Investigations 
that resulted in safety recalls involved simultaneous loss of 
illumination from both headlamps. NHTSA does not consider the loss of a 
single headlamp as presenting an unreasonable safety risk--such 
failures are readily detectable by the driver while allowing the 
vehicle to retain forward visibility and conspicuity from the remaining 
headlamp. There is typically enough time between the failure of the 
first headlamp and the second during which the vehicle operator can 
obtain the needed repairs.

Subject Vehicle Complaints

    As of July 16, 2014, out of a population of 248,453 subject 
vehicles, NHTSA identified 473 consumer complaints of inoperative 
headlamp(s). Many of these complaints indicated that the headlamp 
harness suffered damage from overheating. After reviewing the 
complaints, ODI found:

--69% (328) Alleged that a single headlamp was inoperative.
--18% (86) alleged that both headlamps were inoperative but not at the 
same time.
--9% (41) alleged that both headlamps were inoperative but the 
complaints did not indicate whether the failures had occurred at the 
same time.
--4% (17) alleged that both headlamps were inoperative at the same 
time.
--One additional complaint cited wire harness damage to both sides but 
did not specify an outage.
--No crashes or loss of vehicle control were reported.

[[Page 44487]]

--Reported thermal damage was limited to melting of the headlamp 
harness and/or the headlamp housing.
--Frequently, a headlamp would intermittently fail to illuminate or 
flickered before becoming completely inoperative.

For the seventeen complaints that alleged simultaneous failure of both 
headlamps while attempting to turn them on or while driving, the 
headlamp failures likely had occurred one at a time--the subject 
vehicle's headlamps are connected in a parallel circuit and each 
circuit is fused independently. Therefore, failure of one headlamp or 
its harness is very unlikely to affect the other headlamp's operation. 
Furthermore, during the agency's headlamp failure investigation PE09-
019, a random sample of consumers was contacted by ODI in a telephone 
survey to verify their experiences. Though the consumers stated in 
complaints to the manufacturer that both headlamps failed at the same 
time, ODI discovered through its interviews of these complainants that, 
in fact, one headlamp would begin to flicker and then cut off while the 
other headlamp remained operational. In a few cases where no action was 
taken by the complainants, the second headlamp failed several months 
later; however none of those surveyed could confirm that both headlamps 
failed to illuminate simultaneously. There is no reason to believe this 
is not applicable to the subject vehicles as well.

Technical Service Bulletin

    In May of 2009, General Motors Corporation (GM) issued Technical 
Bulletin 09-08-42-004 applicable to the MY 2007-2009 Saturn 
Outlook vehicles. The Subject: ``Low Beam Headlamp Replacement/
Diagnosis (Inspect Fuse, Bulb, Harness, Replace Harness and Fill 
Connector Cavity for Low Beam Bulb Connector with Nyogel Grease).'' The 
bulletin provides corrective actions to address the condition that some 
customers describe as the low beam headlamp bulb being inoperative. A 
reduction of consumer complaints accompanied release of this bulletin, 
suggesting that the repair cost concerns on the part of many of the 
complainants were addressed.

Investigation Precedent

    ODI previously opened two defect investigations concerning 
inoperative headlamps due to overheating and melting of headlamp 
harness--failures very similar to those described by owner of the 
subject vehicle. Both investigations were closed without a recall 
because a safety-related defect trend was not identified. The closing 
resume summary of PE04-020 stated: ``Nissan and Ford found that the 
original equipment headlight stainless steel bulb terminals may over 
time cause elevated contact resistance and overheat the electrical 
connector housing. This can result in a headlight flickering, bulb 
outage and heat deformation to the headlight connector.
    This problem can affect independently either headlight but does not 
cause simultaneous failure of both headlights. The problem also does 
not affect front parking lamps. As a result, the complaints typically 
report single failure of one headlight. There were no crashes or loss 
of vehicle control reported.''
    In another previous investigation of headlamp harness failure 
(PE05-007), the closing resume summary stated: ``Improper installation 
of the original equipment headlight connector can cause increased 
terminal resistance and overheat the headlight connector.
    This problem can affect independently either headlight but does not 
cause simultaneous failure of both headlights. The problem also does 
not affect front parking lamps. As a result, the complaints typically 
report single failure of one headlight. There were no crashes or loss 
of vehicle control reported.''

Customer Satisfaction Program

    In December of 2011, GM issued a Customer Satisfaction Program 
(CSP), Bulletin No. 11055 that applies to the subject vehicles. GM 
notified the owners to bring their vehicles to a GM dealer to have the 
headlamp connectors and the low beam headlamp bulbs replaced at no 
charge through 2013. Shortly after issuance of the more recent GM 
bulletin, related complaints to NHTSA decreased significantly from over 
a hundred annually to 21 for calendar year (CY) 2012, 33 for CY 2013 
and only 11 (year-to-date) as of July 16, 2014.

Conclusion

    Based on the information currently available, NHTSA does not 
believe that the headlamp condition as alleged by the petitioner 
indicates the likelihood of a safety-related defect that would warrant 
a formal investigation. Therefore, in view of the need to allocate and 
prioritize NHTSA's limited resources to best accomplish the agency's 
safety mission, the petition is denied.

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30162(d); delegations of authority at CFR 
1.50 and 501.8.

 Nancy Lummen Lewis,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2014-17984 Filed 7-30-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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