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Feds expand investigation into GM,FORD,KIA,NISSAN,VOLVO, CHEVY

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Feds expand investigation into GM, FORD, KIA, NISSAN, VOLVO, CHEVY

WASHINGTON - Federal safety officials are expanding their investigation of complaints that throttles stick in full-sized General Motors' pickups and sport-utilities.

If the investigation were to find a safety defect, the company might have to recall as many as 3.1 million vehicles for repairs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated.

The agency and the manufacturer have collected more than 900 complaints about the throttles. The complaints included 50 reported crashes with three injuries.

GM also has recorded more than 229,000 warranty claims for possibly related throttle body repairs on the trucks. The affected models are 1999-2002 Chevrolet Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban and Avalanche; GMC Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL; and Cadillac Escalade.

NHTSA said the complaints usually indicate the blade in the throttle body is sticking in the closed position. The agency warned that if a driver presses hard on the accelerator pedal to free the throttle, the vehicle may surge, creating a safety hazard.

GM, in documents filed with NHTSA, said it has issued a service bulletin to deal with some throttle problems and is developing another one.

Expanded cases
Generally, when NHTSA upgrades an investigation, the agency moves it from the information gathering phase called preliminary evaluation to the more intense category called engineering analysis, which can lead to a finding of a safety defect.

Other newly upgraded investigations are:

2000-01 FORD FOCUS
Problem: Deploying airbag burns occupants or causes vehicle fire.

Complaints: 140, including 142 burn injuries and 18 fires.

Vehicle population: 577,000.

1999-2001 FORD F-350, F-450, F-550, E-350, E-450
Problem: Tire valve stem pops out, tire rapidly deflates; driver may lose control.

Complaints: 1,133.

Vehicle population: 879,000.

1998-2000 KIA SEPHIA
Problem: Battery cable shorts out, creates fire hazard.

Complaints: Eight; 72 other engine compartment fires of unknown cause reported.

Vehicle population: 193,000.

Problem: Wiring anomaly disables driver airbag.

Complaints: 49, plus 284 possibly related warranty claims.

Vehicle population: 54,000.

1996-97 VOLVO 850
Problem: Smoke or fire emanates from front seats.

Complaints: 50, with nearly 3,500 possibly related warranty claims.

Vehicle population: 102,000.

NHTSA also closed investigations after finding insufficient evidence of defects. They had been opened after complaints about the following:

Windshield wiper failures in 1998-2000 Kia Sportages.

Engine seizing in 2001 Hyundai Santa Fes.

New cases
Here are new defect investigations opened by NHTSA:

Problem: Turn signals malfunction.

Complaints: Nine.

Vehicle population: 429,000.

Problem: Lower control arm ball joint fails; suspension collapses.

Complaints: Two.

Vehicle population: 3,900.
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