Nissan Steering Wheel Emblems Are Potentially Dangerous, 404k Vehicles Recalled

Nissan Titan 6 photos
Photo: Nissan / edited by autoevolution
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Despite being intensely passionate about Skyline GT-Rs and Z cars, I also loathe Nissan for being way too cheap about many things. From the plastics used in the cabin to their continuously variable transmissions and poor quality control, there’s a lot of stuff that makes Nissan the most repulsive of the Big Three automakers in Japan.
The recall we’re covering today is another instance of Nissan being Nissan. The Yokohama-based automaker became aware of a potential issue in January 2022, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration forwarded a customer vehicle owner questionnaire related to an injury caused by the Nissan emblem on the steering wheel of a 2008 model year Titan workhorse.

Not wanting to be dragged into court over this incident, Nissan decided to investigate. Lo and behold, the company identified three previous allegations of injury caused by detached emblems related to airbag deployment. In other words, the emblem can turn into a potentially deadly projectile under airbag deployment.

The chronology of events document uploaded on the federal watchdog’s website states that Nissan initially shrugged off the January 2022 incident as an isolated event. But an analysis conducted in February 2019 on a broken emblem sourced from a different vehicle revealed that Nissan was fully aware of the emblem potentially becoming a projectile. Nissan’s engineers discovered contaminant residue in said emblem, a problem that originates from a tier 2 supplier’s production process.

The tier 2 supplier’s name is Douglas, and tier 1 supplier Autoliv ASP from Auburn Hills is listed in the document attached below as the company that made the driver’s airbag assembly. We’ve covered Autoliv-related recalls on so many occasions here on autoevolution that I’ve already lost count. Why do automakers still rely on this tier 1 supplier, though? The answer is cheaping out.

Nissan Titan
Photo: Nissan
Reducing the costs of a component or assembly to an unreasonable degree always means trouble, be it in terms of perceived quality or emblems becoming projectiles. The bitter truth is, cheaping out with subpar parts from dodgy suppliers is a trait shared by all automakers.

Nissan shouldn’t take the blame alone, though. Douglas could have informed Autoliv of their blunder, and Autoliv could use better quality control on parts coming from tier 2 suppliers. They’re in this together, and it’s not exactly surprising due to the relatively slim profit margins and high R&D costs in the auto industry.

The emblem’s resin was produced with non-optimized melt flow parameters in the injection molding process. The emblem breaking under airbag deployment is the result of a combination of factors: material quality, the quality of the chrome plating, and customer usage.

404,690 vehicles are recalled in the United States alone over this issue, vehicles produced from the 2008 to the 2011 model year. The nameplates in question are the Titan full-size pickup truck, Xterra, Quest, Pathfinder, Frontier, and Armada full-size sport utility vehicle.

There is no remedy available as of the moment of reporting. Affected owners can expect to receive Nissan-branded envelopes by April 10th with instructions to bring their vehicles in for the undetermined remedy.
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 Download: Nissan emblem recall (PDF)

About the author: Mircea Panait
Mircea Panait profile photo

After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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