Press Release

Sudden Acceleration Advisory Group

Many of you know that our industry has recently experienced accidents involving Jeep Cherokees and/or Jeep Grand Cherokees. These accidents share the characteristics of what has become known as "sudden unintended acceleration" whereby a vehicle accelerates quickly and sometimes uncontrollably. These recent cases serve as a strong reminder to us all that these vehicles must be handled with extreme caution.

I want to review what has occurred in the last 30 days, what is occurring today and what will be happening in the future regarding this issue.

Since the incidents were reported in late February, hundreds of hours of volunteer and staff time have been spent reviewing and revising our methods for collecting data related to these incidents, examining the "best practices" being used by our industry to ensure the safe handling of these vehicles, discussing these incidents with representatives of DaimlerChrysler, conducting a "roundtable" discussion forum at the recent Car Care World Expo in Las Vegas and responding to media requests for information related to these incidents.

We have been monitoring and evaluating the cause(s) of these incidents for more than a decade. This is obviously a complex and complicated issue with no definitive answer although there is a vast amount of research and information about this phenomenon. Some of the incidents have been caused by "operator pedal misapplication" - simply stated, stepping on the accelerator when the vehicle operator thinks pressure is being applied to the brake. There also is published data that suggests that there may be problems with the throttle and/or cruise control electronics.

As a result of the recent "sudden unintended acceleration" incidents, we have renewed our research efforts. During the next few weeks, we will attempt to complete our research into the most recently reported incidents and seek information from car wash operators who have had "sudden unintended acceleration" incidents occur at their car washes in an effort to create a more robust database of information from which we can draw upon to assess the cause and prevention of these incidents. You can download the report form we ask to be used for reporting these incidents in Acrobat OR Microsoft Word format from the links show above this article.

This report form is being distributed to all trade publications serving the professional car wash and related car care industries. Additionally, the form is being distributed to all regional, state and local car wash associations for distribution to their members, as well as being posted to car wash-related Internet discussion forums.

In the future, once we've compiled sufficient information, representatives of the International Carwash Association hope to meet again with DaimlerChrysler to further discuss this matter. The results of that meeting will be reported to the professional car wash industry.

We also are announcing the appointment of a Sudden Unintended Acceleration Advisory Group to assist in shaping the International Carwash Association's response to these incidents. The members of the Advisory Group are:

  • Bruce Arnett, Carnett's Car Washes, Atlanta, Georgia, Board of Directors International Carwash Association
  • Randy Cressal, Valencia Auto Spa, Valencia, California, President, Western Car Wash Association
  • Henry Dubinsky, Waterway Gas and Wash, St. Louis, Missouri, Past President, International Carwash Association
  • John Lai, Mister Car Wash, Tucson, Arizona
  • Tom Lye, Washing Equipment of Texas (W.E.T.), Austin, Texas
  • Laurie Sherman, Blendco Systems, Bristol, Pennsylvania, Board of Directors, International Carwash Association
  • Walt Tack, Jet Stream Car Wash, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Past President, International Carwash Association

I will keep you apprised of developments related to this matter as they occur. In the meantime, please know that the International Carwash Association staff welcomes your telephone calls and e-mails with questions on how best to handle these vehicles to ensure a safe car wash environment for our employees and customers.

Finally, I can share that our preliminary fact-finding has suggested the following procedures can reduce the frequency and severity of these types of incidents:

  1. Handle Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Grand Cherokees with extreme caution
  2. Allow only specially trained car wash employees to handle these vehicles
  3. Notify all car wash employees when one of these vehicles is on the property
  4. Move the vehicle using both feet - left foot on the brake and right foot on the accelerator
  5. Instruct employees and customers to never walk in front of one of these vehicles

Sincerely,

Mark O. Thorsby, CAE
Executive Director
International Carwash Association