• Aug 8, 2006
The Chrysler Group's Jason Vines is not one to bite his tongue when he discovers reports about his company that a lack a certain degree of truthiness. Today Vines has called out the International Carwash Association (ICA) on the company's media blog for alleging that Jeeps are more prone than other vehicles to suddenly accelerate as they move near the end of the car wash process.
No doubt the ICA is recalling the controversy surrounding the alleged tendency for certain Chrysler products to suddenly accelerate when being shifted into Reverse or Drive. In fact, its own internal investigation and inquiries made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that almost all reported cases of vehicles experiencing unintended acceleration were due to pedal misapplication rather than mechanical defects.

Of the 41 incidences of sudden acceleration reported to the NHTSA, the Jeep Grand Cherokee against which these allegations have been predominantly charged was involved in five. The Toyota Camry was also involved in five and many other makes and model comprise the remaining 31.

Despite finding no mechanical fault with its vehicles, DCX did offer to retrofit Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models back in 1997 with a 'brake-park' shift interlock that would prevent pedal confusion while shifting.

Vines then turns the mirror towards the car wash industry itself, pointing out that its workforce is comprised mainly of unskilled laborers who often drive customers' vehicles wearing big boots with one ass cheek on the seat while hanging out the door. Clearly no vehicles are intended to be operated that way.

You can check out Vines' fulmination in full after the jump and make up your own mind.

[Source: DCX]

Sudden Exaggeration
by Jason Vines

The International Carwash Association (ICA) is attempting to pull a stunt that stinks as strong as those pine tree scented air "fresheners." The organization, which represents the nation's thousands of car washes, is singling out Jeep® Grand Cherokee, alleging it is more prone than other vehicles to suddenly accelerate as they move near the end of the car wash process.

That's hogwash. If a vehicle suddenly accelerates in a car wash, it's generally because some dude "workin' at the car wash baby" is dancing with two left feet-stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake. That's not my opinion, that's the conclusion reached in studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other government and independent agencies.

In fact, claims of sudden acceleration have been leveled at virtually every make of vehicle.

Of the past 41 incidences of (alleged) sudden acceleration at car washes reported to NHTSA, five involved the Grand Cherokee. A lot? Not if you look behind the unusual hype coming out of the ICA. You know what other vehicle was the subject of five sudden acceleration reports? It wasn't even an SUV, but the Golden Child Toyota Camry! The other 31 incidents involved many other makes and models. (Psst, there's nothing to Camry sudden acceleration claims either, by the way.)

Instead of looking realistically inwardly at the hiring and training of its members, the ICA would rather close its eyes while pointing a misguided finger outwardly toward the dirty vehicles that provide income for carwash operators.

In a July 10th letter to one of our engineering specialists, the ICA executive director Mark Thorsby informed him that the industry has launched an initiative they call "We Care," which is really nothing but a synonym for unwarranted hysteria (and abbreviated, WC, reminds me of what it really is.)

"We Care" calls for the following steps to be taken when a Jeep enters a car wash, according to an attachment to Thorsby's letter:
1-Notify all employees once a Jeep arrives by honking the horn and activating hazard lights.
2-Have only experienced employees operate Jeeps.
3-Have employees wear seatbelts when operating Jeeps.

What this comes down to, quite seriously, is a transfer of blame in order to cover up inadequate employee training, the hiring of illegal workers and a disturbing increase in crime at carwashes.

What do we know about this that allows me to make such charges?

Consider this: isn't it interesting that all of these alleged sudden acceleration stories sound the same?

"The car just took off by itself. I tried to hit the brake, but it wouldn't stop!"

"The harder I pushed on the brake, the faster it went!"

There are a few immutable truths in life. One is that the brakes always win. You could be standing on the gas, but if your other foot is on the brake the car is going nowhere. No kidding, do it yourself.

Need more proof? Consider just a small sampling of what we found out about car wash industry from carwash industry journals.

A story in "Professional Carwashing and Detailing Magazine" points out how a "full service carwash requires a lot of unskilled workers," causing the industry to rely on unskilled and often illegal labor. That scenario can lead to a situation where vehicles are not operated in a safe and professional manner.

Here are some other recent news stories illustrating how the actions of car wash workers who were apparently poorly trained or simply out of control, led to injury or death.

· North Plainfield, New Jersey – A car wash employee moving a van hit and dragged his co-worker, killing the man.

· Tampa, Florida – A car wash owner was in critical condition after being run over by an employee driving a Lincoln Navigator, which also hit a Walgreens store. Charges are pending against the carwash worker.

· Syracuse, New York – A car wash employee driving a van equipped for a driver with disabilities crashed through the front glass doors of the car wash offices. According to the Post Standard, the employee accelerated instead of braking.

· Longmont, Colorado – A car wash worker moving a customer's Ford F150 pickup truck leveled a bank sign and careened off an SUV carrying a holiday-bound family before plowing into the bank itself.

· Fairfield, Connecticut - A Jaguar sedan accidentally left in drive was sent careening through a carwash injuring three employees who tried to stop it along the way, police said.

We could go on and on. A simple Internet search doesn't take long to find a laundry list. Interestingly, investigations have shown what many of these car wash crashes have in common – big boots on the driver and half a butt cheek on the seat with the operator basically riding the vehicle side saddle.

The fact is no potential product defect allegation has been as exhaustively investigated as sudden acceleration. Allegations years ago almost put a fine company out of business. In every case, whether or not it occurred in a carwash, it was operator error, not a mechanical defect that triggered the incidents.

It's a big mistake for the car wash industry to white wash its failings by trying to blame the vehicles its customers pay good money to clean.

Make no mistake, DaimlerChrysler offers its sincere sympathy to the victims and their families, but it's important they know their injuries were not caused by any mechanical failure on the part of a vehicle.

We are asking the ICA to direct its members to stop unfairly singling out Jeep or any other brand without any credible facts and for goodness sakes, train and supervise their employees.

Since the ICA's smear campaign against Jeep doesn't appear to be reaching the end of the line, we had no choice but to wring out the situation in public through this blog. I encourage you, as journalists, bloggers and industry analysts to dig in and see for yourselves that the car wash industry is attempting to muddy the reputation of dozens of well-made vehicles in order to hide its own dirt.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 21 Comments
      bigspin7
      • 28 Days Ago

      We just had a terrible accident involving our grand jeep.  it was totaled in hit 4 cars, air bags did not go off.  the poor young man driving it after it came out from being washed.it excellerated and blew over planters hitting cars on the way.  this was a car wash in spa car wash in berwyn, pa.  this is real, it is not made up or exaggerated.  please advise anyone with grand jeep

      Terry T. Wiens
      • 8 Years Ago
      To the writing staff of the International Car Wash Association and any other interested person--especially ICA members:

      Concerning your (the ICA's) response to Mr. Vine's nailing the ICA about the "sudden acceleration" problem: Unless you put a name to the response it should not be considered. I have read all the articles concerning this matter and no one seems to want to be called out on an individual basis.

      NO GUTS!!!

      Any writer that has to hide behind the "company skirts" (ICA's) to respond to something, doesn't deserve to be read. If you (whomever you are) are going to call someone out--stand up and do it right. Don't hide. It seems as though you are inebriated with your own verbosity--well learned lessons from Mark Thorsby, ICA's "snow everybody" man.

      Unless you take credit for your editorials and supposed facts, do it openly like every other newspaper, magazine or other organization does it. Till this is done, Mr. Vine's response stands.

      TTW
      ICA Member since 1996.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Click or cut and past the web link below and then click on "watch the report". This is a recent news report regarding a Jeep SUA incident in Kentucky. The owners of the Jeep were stopped at a red light.
      Doug Newman

      http://www.wcpo.com/wcpo/localshows/dontwasteyourmoney/14765976.html
      • 8 Years Ago
      Long live The Colbert Report!
      • 8 Years Ago
      The International Carwash Association regrets Jason Vines' comments do little to advance a solution to a commonly understood and accepted safety issue. Empirical evidence and data collected over the past decade, which has continuously been shared with DaimlerChrysler, clearly suggests that an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of sudden unintended acceleration incidents involve Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Grand Cherokees. In fact, the Association has worked in cooperation with DaimlerChrysler over the last ten years to develop sound advice and counsel to car wash operators and employees to help prevent incidents. At no time during the past decade has DaimlerChrysler ever claimed that the Association was "singling out" the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee in advising car wash operators and employees about how to prevent these incidents, nor has that ever been our intent.

      In fact, thanks to ongoing collaboration and input from DaimlerChrysler, the Association has been able to proactively provide additional safety guidelines to car wash operators and employees who are servicing Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Grand Cherokees to ensure the safety of customers and car wash employees. This is the intention of our "We Care" program which has been a key safety training initiative of the Association.

      The professional car wash industry with its 105,000 location in the United States employs more than 900,000 workers who are committed to superior service and safety. Education and training are in fact an important aspect of what we provide our members and the industry at large. Mr. Vines disparaging comments are an insult to the hard-working people who own and operate car washes and regularly provide service to two thirds of the American motoring public.

      Mr. Vines' attack is truly unfortunate and takes away from what we believe should be at the ongoing focus of the sudden unintended acceleration dialogue -- safety. Lashing out at business owners and employees and pointing fingers at other automobile manufacturers does little to improve safety. We will continue to focus our attention, energy and resources on preventing these incidents from occurring, which includes training and raising awareness among car wash employees. We hope that DaimlerChrysler will return soon to collaboratively working with the car wash industry to ensure the safety of car wash customers and employees.

      Mark Thorsby
      Executive Director
      International Carwash Association
      • 8 Years Ago
      As you might expect, I have a reaction to Jason Vines' blog. Please go to www.carcarecentral.com to read the complete text.

      Mark Thorsby
      Executive Director
      International Carwash Association
      • 8 Years Ago
      Hey Jason, We thank you for your very professional remarks about jeeps and the carwash industry. Please explain the two incidents at my carwashes where it was the owner of the jeep who was behind the wheel when the incidents happened? How about the incident at a Connecticut carwash several years ago, when someone was killed because the owner was behind the wheel. How about the lady that was at a drive thru bank with her own jeep and it took off across the street and killed someone. How about the jeep that the owner was driving in wisconsin and crashed thru a hospital entrance and the engine was still accelerating when it was against the solid block wall and the driver was out of the jeep by then. How about the jeep that accelerated off of a pier in Florida into the water and someone drowned. How about the most recent incident at a cincinnati intersection when the jeep took off into the car in front of them. I could go on and on but the point is their is an issue with jeeps idleing at a high level when they are in neutral or park. I know it is very hard to believe unless you see it personally. I have video of an incident at my location that common sense tells you that it is not driver error. About 8 years ago ABC's 20/20 did an investigation. There are just too many incidents with jeeps to just say it is driver error. When you hear about the incidents at carwashes, the employees that are behind the wheel swear they had their feet on the brake trying to stop. I do not have all of the answers but there is just too many incidents for me to pass it off as driver error. Maybe it is something when part of the engine gets wet and that would explain the high number of incidents at carwashes.I dont know but it is a very scary issue.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I own multiple conveyor car wash locations and have washed a few million cars over my 18-year career...we have experienced just four incidents of sudden unintended acceleration and all four involved the Jeep Grand Cherokee at the exit-end of the conveyor...a statistical impossiblity. We wash far more Honda Accords, Ford Tauruses and Toyota Camrys than Jeep Grand Cherokees, probably 10 to 1. If operator error, and it could be, than how come I have not had one incident with an Accord, Taurus or Camry?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Good. And I notice he calls it operator error instead of using some euphemism like pedal misapplication.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I remember noticing on more than one occasion that the Grand Cherokee (previous model) had the gas pedal where one might expect a brake. Because of the large transfer case hump it seemed like the gas was almost directly beneath the steering wheel.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The following information regarding Jeep Sudden Unintended Acceleration can be found on the Ricci~Leopold website: http://www.riccilaw.com/CM/Noteworthy%20Results/noteworthy%20results40.asp

      With permission from Theodore J. Leopold,http://www.riccilaw.com/bio/TheodoreLeopold.asp managing partner of Ricci~Leopold, P.A. , I have cut and pasted the information below.

      Doug Newman

      Sudden Unintended Acceleration: The Cherokee Story

      One car races backward out of an airport parking space... another lurches out of a carwash stall at high speed...

      These were not displays of reckless driving, but the real-world consequences of reckless auto design that continues to cause scores of injuries and hundreds of collisions. Auto makers and federal safety regulators have known about the problem of sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) http://riccilaw.com/PracticeAreas/sudden_unintended_acceleration.asp at least since the 1980s, when more than 1,000 such incidents were reported involving Audi's.

      During the 1980s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also received complaints of similar problems with Nissan 280/300ZX models and Maxima, the Acura Legend, the Honda Accord, and various Ford and General Motors models. NHTSA opened several defect investigations but, for the most part, closed them without finding a "defect trend," instead concluding that the accelerations were caused by "driver error" or "pedal misapplication." Despite the accumulating evidence, when the Center for Auto Safety asked NHTSA in 1990 to investigate sudden acceleration problems, the agency declined.

      Audi eventually did recall its cars to retrofit them with gear-shift interlocks, which require that drivers apply the brakes before shifting out of the "park" position. Nissan did the same for its 1979-1987 280/300 ZXs, but some auto makers continue to insist the problem isn't serious and even, in some instances, that it doesn't exist.

      The Cherokee Story

      Chrysler, the target of the most recent surge of complaints, still says the unintended accelerations are caused by driving -- not design -- errors, even though in 1991 the auto maker voluntarily recalled 1989 and 1990 model 6-cylinder Cherokees to replace a throttle position sensor (TPS) that it acknowledged was causing "intermittent high idle" after the engine was started. 1996 was pivotal in the long story of delay in addressing Chrysler's sudden acceleration problems. By then, NHTSA had received more than 400 complaints about Jeep Cherokees accelerating without warning. (The agency now has more than 570 such reports involving Cherokees and Grand Cherokees.)

      By the mid-1990s, even the International Carwash association (ICA) knew about the problem: it issued a "special alert" to warn its members that carwash operators were experiencing unexpected "lurching" when Cherokees exited the wash. According to the ICA alert, when the cars were shifted into gear, they unexpectedly accelerated even though the gas pedal was not depressed. In at least one incident, when the driver was extricated from a 1996 Cherokee after it had suddenly accelerated out of a carwash, bystanders had to turn off the ignition to stop the rear wheels from spinning. In April of 1996, the Center for Auto Safety again asked NHTSA to investigate, citing the ICA alert and 12 complaints involving 1991-1995 model Cherokees. Again, NHTSA declined to open a defect investigation, but it did start a "pre-investigative file" and surveyed 88 owners of 1993 Cherokees who had reported experiencing sudden acceleration in an attempt to find similarities that would help identify the source of the problem.

      Chrysler Blames Drivers

      As the number of complaints rose, the media began reporting on incidents of sudden acceleration. Chrysler responded by denying the problem exists, blaming instead "pedal misapplication" by drivers who were either not familiar with their vehicles or seated incorrectly behind the wheel. Chrysler said eyewitnesses who did not report seeing brake lights come on during the accelerations was evidence that the drivers were in fact stepping on the accelerator, not the brake pedal. Even NHTSA joined Chrysler in arguing that such accidental accelerations were fairly common, that they were caused by driver error, and that there was no scientific evidence that they occurred independent of drivers' errors.

      Chrysler went a step further: it performed a "test" which it claimed proved that sudden accelerations were simp
      • 8 Years Ago
      As you might expect, I have a reaction. Please go to www.carcarecentral.com to read the entire text.

      Mark Thorsby
      Executive Director
      International Carwash Association
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