CAS and Public Citizen Letter to Mr. Carlos Ghosn, Nissan CEO

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

August 8, 2002

Mr. Carlos Ghosn
Chief Executive Officer
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
17-1 Ginza #6 – Chome Chuo-Ku
Tokyo 104, Japan

Dear Mr. Ghosn:

Eyesight is precious gift. Tragically, a poorly designed airbag in the 1994 Nissan Altima and the 1995 Altima made through March 3, 1995 has taken away or permanently impaired the eyesight of dozens of front passengers in these vehicles. Nissan made eye saving design changes to the airbag system in Altima models produced after March 3, 1995. There are no known reports of permanent eye injury in any Altima’s made after that date.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating the 1994-early 1995 Altima based on 75 reports of face and eye injury. The incidence of such injury in these models is 20 times that of other similar models surveyed by NHTSA. Rather than take responsibility for this terrible defect in its models, Nissan has hired lawyers to lobby against a recall. Nissan has added insult to injury to its blinded victims such as Norma Brainerd who speak out for a recall by stating in her case that the Altima was going 70 mph when its own expert said the speed was 24 mph while her expert said 15 mph.

Nissan says that other models such as the 1995 Acura Integra, 1994 Chevrolet Caprice, 1994 Toyota Previa, and 1994 Volvo 940 have similarly deploying airbags. The Center for Auto Safety has examined the test videos and determined that none of them deploy in the harmful fashion of the Altima. While all have a similar trajectory toward the occupant, only the Altima has a partially inflated airbag that strikes the occupant in the face like a boxing glove. The airbags in the other models are fully inflated before they come in contact with an occupant’s head.

Nissan has hidden behind claims of confidentiality for vital information such as airbag fold patterns and number of tethers that is known by other companies just as information on its competitors’ airbags are known to Nissan. Nissan should release all airbag design information on its models and those of its competitors.

As the chief executives of the two leading auto safety consumer groups in America, we call on you as the chief executive of Nissan to recall all 1994 to early 1995 Nissan Altima’s throughout the world before they blind more innocent victims.


Joan Claybrook Clarence Ditlow
Public Citizen Center for Auto Safety