Lexus RC, Fiesta and 500L Recalls, Audi's Self-Driving Permit: The Week In Reverse

September 20, 2014

Lexus has a new two-door coupe, and this week we drove the 2015 RC lineup for the first time. Our first take? The base V-6 two-door's a pleasant luxury car, and it could be the best-looking Lexus yet. But performance fans are going to skip over the standard versions and race right into the 467-horsepower RC F, the performance model that's within a few tenths of a second of BMW territory. The RC F has all sorts of trick handling hardware, a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds, and a top speed of 170 mph--all for a base price of $63,325. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of Ford Fiesta vehicles from the 2011-2013 model years. According to consumer complaints, some of those vehicles may have been built with faulty door latches, which could allow the doors to open while the vehicle is in traffic. The agency says that it has received 61 complaints about the Fiesta's doors. Most claim that one or more doors failed to latch properly, triggering the "door ajar" light on the dashboard. However, 12 of the complaints allege that a door or doors opened while the Fiesta was in motion. If the agency's study finds enough evidence, it could lead to a recall.

When we look back on 2014, the automotive story of the year will almost certainly be the huge number of recalls -- particularly, those from General Motors, intended to fix faulty ignition switches. Though the "Switchgate" scandal has slipped out of the headlines for now, it continues to unfold. The latest chapter involves compensation claims filed by vehicle owners and their loved ones. An attorney in charge of determining liability now says 19 deaths are linked to ignition problems, up from the 13 GM had previously reported. So far, 125 wrongful death claims have been filed as GM prepares to compensate victims.

Chrysler has issued a recall for some Fiat 500L hatchbacks. According to a bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some of those vehicles may contain faulty airbags--knee airbags that were folded improperly. The issue only occurs in the case of an un-belted occupant. To date, the automaker has received no complaints about the issue, and no accidents or injuries have been reported. All told, the recall affects some 25,483 vehicles registered in the U.S. Chrysler will begin notifying owners this month.

And finally this week, just one week after Audi announced plans to offer self-driving vehicles to the public, the company now says that it has received California's first permit to operate autonomous cars on public roads. Audi intends to make use of that permit very soon, because California regulations allowing autonomous vehicles to operate on state roads -- regulations released in May -- have just gone into effect. California's new rules require test cars to have steering wheels and brakes so that operators can take "immediate physical control" of the vehicles if necessary--so it seems, we're still a ways away from truly handsfree driving.

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