Back in 2011, Mazda had to recall some 65 000 Mazda6 cars in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico because yellow sac spiders—aka Cheiracanthium inclusum—were nesting in “tiny rubber hoses linked to fuel tank systems…[which] could cause pressurization and ventilation problems,” the LA Timesreported at the time. In the worst case, Mazda indicated, the spider nests could clog the tubes, or more accurately, the evaporative canister vent lines. The resulting clogs could stress a car’s fuel tank to a point where it cracks, possibly leaks fuel, and potentially ignites.
Mazda installed a spring to the canister vent lines in an attempt to keep the pesky spiders out. In addition, it modified the vehicle’s “Power Control Module software to minimize negative pressure of the fuel tank” for Mazda6s that were still on the production line. However, in a report (pdf) to the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration made public last week, Mazda indicated that some spiders had still managed to get through the springs and cause fuel line problems in a number of its customers’ refitted Mazda6s. The automaker did have some good news to report: Its PCM software modification was “effective” in avoiding the possibility of fuel tank cracking, even if a spider’s sac completely clogged the canister vent line.
So Mazda is now going to recall 42 000 U.S.-built Mazda6 cars with 2.5-liter engines from model years 2010 to 2012. These vehicles, built between September 2009 and May 2011, have had the spring installed, but not the PCM software update. Mazda says it will check for spider nests in the canister vent lines, and make needed repairs to any fuel-related parts that may have been damaged as a result of the spiders. It will also reprogram the PCM software to minimize negative pressure in the fuel tank. Affected Mazda6 owners should be getting their recall notices any time now.
Meanwhile, in a more run of the mill recall, Mazda also has issued a global recall last week for 88 000 Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5 vehicles manufactured between October 2012 and January 2014 to reprogram its engine control computer. Mazda reported that a “glitch” was found “in the computer program that checks whether the capacitor, a part of the brake energy regeneration system, is functioning properly,” the Economic Times reported. As a result, the vehicles may not accelerate correctly or even stall. No accidents related to the software problem have been reported, Mazda stated.
The hot water General Motors finds itself in for failing to recall cars with faulty ignition switches and the $1.2 billion hit Toyota just took for hiding what it knew about the problems some of its cars were having with unintended acceleration, may be providing the impetus to make proactive and forthcoming the auto industry’s new bywords. It used to be that car companies were afraid to issue recalls unless absolutely necessary. Perhaps we’ve reached a point where they’re afraid not to.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.