The Center for Auto Safety thinks melting dashboards are a safety defect and should be recalled

Government says it doesn't see a defect trend

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Every time he gets in the car, Robert Kisarewich, has to stare at an ugly, sticky mess.

"It's spreading across the dash into other areas now," explained Kisarewich.

Our Consumer Watchdog investigation into melting dashboards is spreading too.

"You can see where I've accidentally nicked it and the thing comes off," explained Derrick Little in a YouTube video as he showed the gashes in his dashboard. "I mean stand behind your product Toyota!"

We found Toyota and Nissan owners like Little (2007 Toyota Camry) and Kisarewich (2008 Nissan Altima) have filed the majority of the 300+ complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We analyzed complaints for model year 2000-2014 cars.

"Anytime you have hundreds of complaints on a particular problem that's an indication that there is a widespread defect," explained Clarence Ditlow with The Center for Auto Safety .

Ditlow said it should be common sense -- a dashboard should never melt.

"The cause of it is real simple. It's poor engineering," explained Ditlow.

Toyota is the first car maker now admitting to the Consumer Watchdog  that in 2009 it changed the engineering of how it makes dashboards. Almost all the complaints have been on cars made before that.

It's a problem that not only looks bad, but could be dangerous.

"It's extremely difficult to see over that curb to the passenger lane," explained Kisarewich.

Kisarewich said he's blinded by the glare.

In one picture he took, you can barely see the kids walking on the side of the road.

"It's a safety concern. A safety defect," explained Ditlow. "There should be a recall nationwide."

A recall! Strong words from a safety expert.

"There is just no excuse for dashes that melt or crack," explained Ditlow.

While we don't know of any injuries or accidents, Ditlow thinks the car makers have the chance to fix the problem before that happens.

"Unfortunately all too often it takes a body count to get a safety recall, but the purpose of safety recalls is to prevent deaths and injuries," explained Ditlow.

Nissan and Toyota say they are investigating, but Nissan calls it an isolated issue.

"We have become aware of a few isolated consumer complaints about the dashboard appearance in their vehicle.  Our Consumer Affairs group is working with the two customers you identified to resolve their concerns," Nissan wrote in a previous statement.

They haven't provided any more information despite repeated requests.

Most of the complaints (66.7%) to the government are coming from here in Florida.

People in other warm weather states are complaining too from Louisiana, Texas, California and others.

We also uncovered dashboards that melted in South Florida are being sent to California for further testing rather than to a scrap pile.

Dealers tell us Toyota wants them back to be able to investigate what went wrong, but Nissan hasn't said much about it to us.

They did tell Kisarewich they won't replace the dash even though he has their extended warranty.

"Right now everyone is in a waiting game," explained Kisarewich.

While the majority of complaints impact Nissan and Toyota, we also heard complaints from Lexus and Mazda drivers.

Just this week a lawyer filed a lawsuit against Lexus . The manufacturer issued a technical service bulletin for certain model cars, but only covers the issue while the car is in warranty. Lexus won't comment on the lawsuit. The lawyer is pushing the court to classify it as a class action case.

Despite these pushes for a recall, the government says its not needed at this time.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote in a statement, "NHTSA is aware of the situation and will continue to monitor complaints.  Based on NHTSA’s review of available data to date, the agency has not identified a safety defect trend that would warrant further action at this time.”

Ditlow said consumers need to continue complaining to the government , and use the word "recall" in your complaint to get the government's attention.


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