Following an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mercedes-Benz is recalling about 253,000 C-Class cars from the 2008-11 model years because the taillights could fail, according to a report the automaker posted Tuesday on the safety agency's website.
The recall comes about 27 months after Mercedes determined the cause of the problem and made a manufacturing change for replacement parts but did not recall the vehicles, according to the report.
The models affected by the recall are the C300; C300 4Matic; C350 and C63 AMG.
Mercedes said oxidation on a ground pin connector could cause the rear taillights to dim or fail completely. The automaker told N.H.T.S.A. that it was not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the problem. But the agency has said it received reports of five trunk fires stemming from the defect.
Mercedes said it received its first complaints in 2009, but didn't learn the cause of the lighting failures until December 2011. In January 2012, the automaker made a manufacturing change to replacement parts.
In July 2013, the agency began investigating after receiving complaints from 21 owners, some of whom reported scorch marks or small fires inside the trunk. One of the owners said he stopped driving when the warning lights indicated his taillights were not functioning. Pulled over and opened trunk. Trunk was filled with smoke and burning plastic smell. Visual flame small on ground wire.
Another owner complained that Mercedes refused to repair the problem for free. This is a safety problem and should be covered no matter what. I have found that this is a common problem with these cars and yet there are no recalls, he told the agency.
The investigation ultimately found 402 complaints from owners, the five reports of small trunk fires and nearly 24,000 warranty claims the automaker said may relate to the problem. So the agency upgraded the investigation last December to a more serious engineering analysis.
Mercedes described the recall as voluntary, but once an automaker discovers a safety problem it has no choice but within five working days to inform the agency of its plan for a recall or face a civil fine.
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