DETROIT — A quarter-million Audi 5000-series cars made before the current model year were recalled Thursday for installation of a device designed to eliminate sudden accelerations that critics blame for five deaths.
Letters will be sent to owners asking that they take the vehicles to Audi dealers so a shift-lock device can be placed on the transmission and so an engine idle stabilization valve can be checked and replaced if necessary, company and government officials said.
"This is a total recall" of the 1978 through 1986 models, Audi spokesman Joseph Bennett said from company headquarters in Troy, a Detroit suburb. "If it's an Audi 5000 with an automatic transmission, it is involved in this."
Cost to Top $10 Million
The average price of the recalled cars is $23,000, Bennett said.
"No manufacturer gets specific about the cost of repairs, but the cost of the recall is well over $10 million," he said.
Audi is a subsidiary of Volkswagen of America Inc.
Shift-lock devices are standard equipment in 1987 models, which are not involved in the recall, Bennett said.
Late last year the company began a voluntary program of installing the shift-lock devices, which require a driver to press the brake pedal before operating the automatic transmission.
Safety Group Not Satisfied
The Center for Auto Safety in Washington, a consumer group that has urged the government to order Audi to repurchase all of its 5000-series cars, said the recall is just a "relabeling" of company-instituted service campaigns.
"The track record has proven that they (the shift-lock devices and changing idle valves) are flops," center spokesman Dan Howell said, adding that his organization has received reports of sudden, unanticipated acceleration in cars with the devices.
Diane Steed, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the agency has been told of five deaths and 271 injuries related to the problem.