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Nissan - "Trial Lawyers and Activist Groups Distort 1994-Early 1995 Nissan Altima Safety Record"

GARDENA, Calif., August 6 -- Today, Nissan North America, Inc., responds to inaccurate claims made by trial lawyers and an activist group about the safety of the 1994-early 1995 Altima passenger-side airbag system. ADVERTISEMENT

recalling a recall of the passenger-side airbags in 1994-early 1995 Altimas, despite its proven safety record. Nissan is working diligently and responsibly with NHTSA on the ongoing investigation related to the 1994 to early 1995 Altima. As a former administrator of NHTSA and head of Public Citizen, Joan Claybrook is well aware of the investigation process and appears to be trying to shortcut NHTSA's investigation. The fact is, what prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) initial investigation of the 1994-early 1995 Nissan Altima was a meeting at which a plaintiff's attorney and Ms. Claybrook, made a presentation to the agency and provided information on lawsuit complaints about the passenger-side airbag. Subsequently, the same plaintiff's attorney approached several broadcast news organizations with sensationalized accusations about the safety record of the 1994-early 1995 Altima. We are disappointed that Ms. Claybrook and the contingent-fee plaintiffs' lawyer are not willing to respect the agency's processes and let NHTSA do its job in a deliberate and thorough way.

"Nissan takes its commitment to all aspects of product safety and customer satisfaction very seriously, which is why Nissan products undergo extensive quality and safety tests before they are ever brought to market," said Bob Yakushi, Manager of Automotive Safety Engineering, Nissan. "In fact we have a long history of promoting airbag safety and educating the general public on the proper, safe use of airbags."

Eye injuries related to airbags are not unusual and are not unique to the Altima. Field data show that they do not occur at a different rate or severity compared to a wide variety of other vehicles. They occur in many other vehicles, from both driver and passenger airbags, and have a wide variety of causes unrelated to the design of the air bag. This includes having objects between the deploying airbag and the occupant (like eye glasses, hands, or soda cans) or being too close or out of position.

Nissan has spent millions of dollars on airbag research and design, and the promotion of airbag safety and education. Additionally, Nissan has a long-standing record of interest in and support of all aspects of vehicle safety. For example, Nissan was one of the very first automobile manufacturers to describe and urge safe airbag operating procedures in its owner's manual including those in the 1994-early 1995 Altima.

"I've studied a lot of airbag systems and the Altima system is very similar to those found in other vehicles. I've seen eye injuries from airbags in all kinds of makes and models and I can tell you this is not a Nissan issue," said Robert J. Gratzinger, M.S., M.B.A., Principal, Gratzinger Engineering & Consulting, Inc.

The passenger airbag system in the 1994-early 1995 Altima deploys like the airbag systems in many competitors' 1994 and 1995 vehicles, including more expensive luxury models. In fact, as shown in government test tapes, many other manufacturers' airbags deploy in the same range as the Altima, which outperformed NHTSA standards.

Stringent U.S. government tests demonstrate that the Altima airbags are safe. In fact Nissan's 1994-early 1995 Altima outperforms both the government safety tests and Nissan's own rigorous standards.

In addition to being one of the first automakers to proactively institute and promote airbag safety operating procedures and instructional manuals, Nissan has earned industry-wide recognition as a leader in automotive safety, in part due to advances made by the company in airbag safety promotion and research. Nissan has carefully investigated the performance of the Altima airbags and concluded that they are performing properly overall and there is no safety defect.

Nissan again reminds its customers that to help avoid injuries from inflating airbags, occupants should follow these simple rules on every trip:

Always wear your seatbelts, sit up right and buckle up properly - lap and shoulder belts for adults, and child restraints, booster seats, or lap and shoulder belts as appropriate for the size and age of the child. Always place children 12 years old and under in the rear seat (and make sure they are properly restrained). Never put a rear-facing child seat in the front seat if the vehicle is equipped with a passenger-side airbag. Always move both driver and passenger seats as far back from the air bag as practical. And drive responsibly.