Hey, Toyota, It Could Be Worse: You Could Have Flaming Tatas

March 24, 2010

Toyota's troubles with so-called sudden acceleration are so well publicized, we're not going to run them down here.

But we'd remind the world's largest carmaker that it might be far worse. As well as sticky accelerator pedals and ill-fitting floor mats, they could also be facing cars that spontaneously combust.

tata nano yellow main 630

tata nano yellow main 630

2009 tata nano minicar 002

2009 tata nano minicar 002

2009 tata nano minicar 005

2009 tata nano minicar 005

Tata Nano Europa at Geneva Auto Show

Tata Nano Europa at Geneva Auto Show

Flaming Tatas?

That's what seems to be happening in India, according to Indian Autos Blog. There have now been several cases in which the tiny, adorable Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car,  has burst into flames.

While only 7,500 Nanos have been built thus far, three separate fires were reported last fall, two on the same day, while the cars were parked. Those incidents involved smoke from the steering column.

Fault battery? Switch short circuit?

The first case was initially attributed to a faulty battery. Debasis Ray, a Tata Motors spokesperson, later said the incidents stemmed from a short circuit in the Nano's "combination switch."

A new supplier was quickly chosen for the switch, and Tata checked the few thousand cars then on the road. But this week, a more serious fire erupted.

Chauffered in a new Nano

Mumbai insurance agent Satish Sawant had just picked up his new Nano at the dealer. He was being chauffered home in it (he does not yet drive) when a motorcyclist signaled that something was wrong.

Flames coming from the rear of the car (where the engine is located) quickly spread, and although Sawant and the driver escaped, the Nano was severely damaged.

Full investigation

To its credit, Tata has now ordered a thorough investigation into the cause of the Sawant fire, which it called a "unique case." It also offered a full refund to Sawant.

The ignition-switch fires may send chills down the spine of Ford engineers, who likely recall the mysterious fires that afflicted hundreds of Ford trucks parked inside garages and elsewhere.

Faulty Ford switch: 14 million vehicles

In that case, a cruise-control deactivation switch from Texas Instruments was ultimately deemed the culprit. Several home fires and at least two deaths were attributed to fires caused when the faulty switch overheated.

In the end, Ford had to recall more than 14 million vehicles to replace the switch. We hope and trust Tata will get on top of any problems long before that.

Toyota recall guide

As for those  Toyota recalls: Our summary, Toyota And Lexus Recall: Everything You Need To Know, has full details on the two largest recalls in North America to address accelerator pedal issues.

[Hindu Business Online via Yahoo News via Indian Autos BlogDNA India via Indian Autos Blog; Hindu Business Line via Indian Autos Blog]

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