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California and the West

Volvo Agrees to Extend Warranty on Throttle

November 16, 2005|Myron Levin | Times Staff Writer

Automaker Volvo will extend the warranty on defective throttle mechanisms in about 356,000 cars in the U.S. and Canada under an agreement reached with California air quality regulators, officials said Tuesday.

The deal will expand warranty coverage to 10 years or 200,000 miles on the electronic throttle module of certain 1999-2002 model year cars that have been prone to stalling and costly repairs. Under California law, such emissions-related components are normally covered for seven years or 70,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Under the agreement with the California Air Resources Board, Volvo also has pledged to reimburse owners who have paid to clean the module or spent as much as $1,000 to replace it.

The Times reported in May that although the modules were designed for a useful life of 100,000 miles, an estimated 21% to 94% of the components were expected to fail within that time, according to reports by Volvo to the air board.

For the Swedish automaker, known for advanced safety and technological sophistication, the module failures have been an embarrassment. A June 2004 internal document produced in a class-action suit described the problem as "a major source of warranty cost and customer dissatisfaction in the U.S. market."

Notices of the warranty extension will go out to owners beginning Dec. 5, said James Hope, a spokesman for Volvo Cars of North America, a unit of Ford Motor Co. "Clearly, this is something we needed to do for our customers," he said.

John Urkov, a branch chief with the air board, said that in negotiations with the agency, Volvo had pushed for warranty coverage of 10 years or 100,000 miles, but "we stuck to our guns."

The agreement does not resolve a separate safety investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into reports of sudden loss of power or stalling in traffic because of failures of the modules. The state air board's probe had focused on the malfunctions causing cars to pollute more than they otherwise would.

The effect of the deal on the class-action lawsuit against Volvo also was unclear. Dina Micheletti, a lawyer for plaintiffs in the case in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, said the suit "will go forward because we want to make sure the terms of the warranty extension are fair ... and the terms of the reimbursement program are fair."

Hope said the deal covered 1999-2002 C70 coupe and convertible models; 1999-2000 S70, V70 and V70SX models; 2000-2001 V70, V70XC and S60 models with turbocharged engines; 1999-2001 S80 models; and 2000-2002 V70 and S60 models with non-turbocharged engines.

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