How Hyundai is using safety feature in marketing

Christina Rogers covers VW and regulatory/legislative issues for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- This week, Hyundai Motor Co. sent out a press release to trumpet the fact that for now on, all its models will be equipped with brake-throttle override technology.

"Why?" you may ask.

Well, of course, the automaker says it wants to "continue its practice of providing critical safety technologies to its customers" ahead of U.S. safety regulators and their bureaucratic mandates.

Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took the long-awaited step of proposing a rule that would require all light vehicles to have this technology going forward. The override mechanism helps drivers stop the vehicle if the accelerator pedal gets stuck.

The federal agency began considering the technology in the wake of Toyota Motor Corp.'s massive recall debacle in 2009-2010 over unintended acceleration. Throttle-override technology effectively helps a driver stop the car or truck when the brake and accelerator pedal are depressed simultaneously.

The mandate isn't finalized, just proposed. It still must undergo a public comment period. Still, Hyundai says it isn't waiting. Or at least, it's not waiting to release some marketing hype around its own system.

According to Automotive News' archives, Hyundai has offered this technology since as far back as 2010 -- the first time regulators started making noise about requiring it. Many other automakers also offer brake-throttle overrides, including Chrysler, GM, Ford, and of course, Toyota.

To be sure, Hyundai acknowledges it's not the only one:

"With virtually all cars using electronic throttle control today, there remains the remote possibility for an unforeseen electronic throttle control malfunction, causing a vehicle to accelerate contrary to driver input," Hyundai said in a statement.

But it goes on to say it's unlikely due to other safety electronics built into the vehicle. To be on the safe side, it's adding it anyway.

"This adds a reassuring, incremental safeguard of control for Hyundai drivers," Robert Babcock, Hyundai's director of compliance affairs, says in the release.

And perhaps, yet another feature to make a hubbub about in marketing material.

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