Honda Has a Big Problem With Its CR-V

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Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) sells a lot of its compact CR-V SUV in the United States. In the first nine months of this year, for example, the CR-V is the company’s best selling model, with sales totaling 277,621. In 2017, the company sold 377,895 CR-V, edging out the compact Civic as Honda’s top seller, a position the CR-V is consolidating this year.

According to a report last week at Consumer Reports, Honda has a serious problem with the 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbo engine sold in more than 500,000 CR-Vs: gasoline is leaking into the engine’s oil causes the engine to stall or lose power during short trips or low-speed driving, especially in cold weather. Worse, it damages the engine by diluting the oil, making it less effective at lubricating the engines moving parts.

For its part, Honda has said:

Honda has received some reports in the United States of irregularly high oil levels in certain 2017-2018 Honda CR-V vehicles equipped with 1.5-liter engines, primarily from the northern areas of the country during extreme cold weather conditions combined with short, intermittent driving. Honda has been investigating the situation and developing a remedy, which we hope to make available through authorized Honda dealers by mid-November 2018.

The repair will be covered by the CR-V’s warranty and the fix will be applied to the model year 2019 vehicles before they go on sale.

According to an expert Consumer Reports consulted, the problem is likely to result from one of two causes:

[I]mproperly designed fuel injectors that spray fuel directly onto the cylinder walls or the engine not heating up enough to vaporize gasoline left over in an engine cylinder.

Honda has not issued a recall on the U.S. cars yet, but did recall some 380,000 CR-Vs and Civics in February in China following reports of similar problems there. According to Consumer Reports, owners were directed to take their CR-Vs to a dealer to fix “an inappropriate fuel-injection setting” that could cause gasoline to seep into the oil pan at temperatures below -4 degrees F.

The company does not consider the problem to be a safety threat, an opinion not shared by Consumer Reports. David Friedman, vice-president for advocacy at the magazine and a former acting director of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, said:

There are many ways stalling can be a safety issue, so if these cars are stalling, they need to be recalled. Even if it turns out there’s no specific safety defect, Honda still should take care of their customers and notify them to go to a dealership for a free repair.

The full report from Consumer Reports is available at the website.