The Multinational Monitor


N A M E S  I N  T H E  N E W S

Nissan Recalls Vans

Under criticism from auto safety groups and pressure from the National Highway and Traffic Administration (NHTSA), Nissan USA agreed in February to buy back all of its 1987 to 1990 model GXE vans - approximately 33,000 vehicles - because of-an alleged fire-causing defect.

Nissan will offer a refund based on the vehicles' current retail value. The offer also includes a$ 500 coupon applicable towards a new or used Nissan vehicle.

Ralph Hoar & Associates (RH&A), an auto safety group, had charged that Nissan had secretly and selectively bought back and crushed at least 900 GXE vans built in 1987,1988 and 1990, in an attempt to hide the defect from the public. RH&A said it has documented buy-backs in six states at prices ranging from $3,300 to $9,000.

According to RH&A, van owners have complained of heat in the passenger compartment, soot building up on the windows and component failures including cracking transmission housings from heat, failure of the seat brackets which hold the seats in place from constant heat exposure and a high number of hose failures.

The problem with the vans is that the engine is significantly larger than the vehicle is intended to handle and that the engine is placed directly under the passenger compartment instead of the front of the van. Consequently, the engine is not fully cooled.

Since 1987, about 150 Nissan van fires have been reported to NHTSA. Nissan has recalled the van four separate times, most recently in August 1993. RH&A says there have been several fires involving the vans since the fourth recall.

Following the fourth recall, NHTSA said it would monitor the situation, and would take enforcement action if the fire problem continued. NHTSA concluded that the fourth recall did not adequately fix the problem.

Nissan USA was unavailable for comment.

Deforestation in Brazil

A Mitsubishi affiliate is doing extensive damage while illegally harvesting timber in the Brazilian Amazon forest, a report commissioned by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) alleges.

According to Brazilian law, timber can only be cut in authorized areas, and must be approved by Brazil's national environmental agency. The RAN report charges that Eidai do Brasil Madeiras S.A., the largest timber operator in the Brazilian Amazon, has been cutting timber without approval from Brazilian authorities. For the last two years, the report claims, Eidai has been illegally logging mahogany from indigenous communities. Mitsubishi holds a 49.95 percent stake in Eidai.

Brazilian authorities often do not have the personnel to enforce logging regulations in remote areas of the Amazon, according to the report. Many of the timber companies, including Eidai, take advantage of the lax enforcement.

According to the report, it is illegal to log on indigenous lands. But Eidai has been able to distance itself from federal enforcement action by allowing suppliers to harvest mahogany, and then purchasing the timber from the suppliers. The Brazilian government does not have the resources to trace the mahogany.

Illegal logging in Brazil is in danger of escalating, due to a recent jump in demand for plywood in Japan. Many Japanese companies are turning to Brazil to compensate for new logging restrictions in Malaysia's rainforests.

Mitsubishi did not return phone calls seeking comment.

- Ben Lilliston

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