Shattering Sunroof Lawsuits
A class action complaint has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Nissan Motor Company, alleging that large glass panoramic sunroofs on some Nissan vehicles have spontaneously shattered.
The vehicles involved include the following (with factory-installed panoramic sunroofs):
- 2008 to present Nissan Rogue, Maxima, Sentra, Pathfinder, and Altima
- 2009-2011 Muranos models
- 2011 to present Juke models
At least 60 owners of Nissan vehicles have reported to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the vehicle’s panoramic sunroofs have shattered unexpectedly. In 2004, Nissan issued a recall on the Maxima models to replace the “Skyview” sunroofs, but has issued no recalls since. In addition, NHTSA is investigating Nissan and has requested information about its shattering panoramic sunroofs from 2006 to 2016.
Nissan has sold at least a million vehicles with the panoramic sunroof in the United States since 2007. Marketed as a luxury upgrade, the high-cost, panoramic sunroof option attracted the plaintiffs in this case, as well as others, to buy or lease Nissan vehicles over less expensive models without the panoramic sunroof.
The Popularity of Panoramic Sunroofs
Panoramic sunroofs have been increasing in popularity since first appearing on American vehicles in the mid-2000s. As of 2011, more than 33% of new vehicles sold or made available in the U.S. featured a sunroof, four times the number sold in 1990, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Automakers contend that renewed consumer interest in sunroofs increased after the industry began addressing old complaints, including ill-fitting models that leaked rain on drivers or let in loud, whistling wind noise. Most sunroofs are now made from tinted or UV-reflective glass and either manual or power sunshades to avoid unwanted heat and sunlight.
In the hopes of capturing the market share of drivers after a bright, spacious feeling, automakers have been steadily increasing the size and surface area of their panoramic sunroofs, transforming them from a luxury upgrade to an economy upgrade, or even a standard feature. But the rise of panoramic sunroofs has also triggered a rise in consumer complaints about the safety issues they pose, including a reduction in vehicle rollover strength, and the danger of spontaneously shattering glass.
Filing a Shattering Sunroof Lawsuit
If you own a vehicle with a panoramic sunroof that has shattered, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Contact our legal advocates to learn more about your consumer rights.
Shattering Sunroofs Not Just a Problem for Nissan
Besides Nissan, other owners of other vehicles have reported to NHTSA that at least 80 panoramic sunroofs on their vehicles have shattered. Several other automakers, including Volkswagen and Hyundai, have initiated voluntary recalls on their vehicles experiencing the same sunroof-shattering defect.
Volkswagen recalled more than 13,100 of its 2012 Audi Q5 crossovers because some of their front sunroof glass panels may be susceptible to breaking in extremely cold temperatures.
Hundreds of Kia drivers have filed reports with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration indicating that their sunroofs have also exploded at random, often when the vehicles were traveling at highway speeds. In a report to NHTSA, Kia indicated that exploding sunroofs were responsible for 18 reported injuries to drivers and passengers. Although Kia conducted its own internal review and allegedly couldn’t find any defects, NHTSA wasn’t convinced and actually broadened its investigation into a full engineering analysis in 2014.
Complaints Allege Automakers Knew of Problems but Failed to Take Action
The sudden and unexpected shattering of panoramic sunroofs allegedly occurs so powerfully that some startled drivers have compared the sound to a gunshot followed by shards of glass hitting the vehicle’s occupants. The explosion leads to a serious safety issue that has caused accident or near-miss accidents, in addition to drivers and passengers being seriously injured by flying glass.
The Nissan complaint make the following allegations:
- The Nissan complaint alleges that the company has known about this problem since 2004 or earlier, based upon complaints to NHTSA about defective sunroofs shattering in the 2003 Nissan Maxima’s “Skyview” sunroof.
What Causes Sunroofs to Shatter?
According to an NBC report, glass expert Mark Meshulam points to three likely culprits when it comes to exploding sunroofs:
- A rock or other debris can pop up and hit the sunroof, causing it to shatter.
- A flaw in the glass can be created during the installation process.
- An imperfection can be present in the glass itself.
Meshulam refers to tempered glass as a “ticking time bomb,” and describes the small imperfections in it as “little stones,” that can grow sufficiently over time until they spontaneously break, causing the glass to shatter into hundreds of tiny pieces.