'Melting' Nissan dashboards spark consumer complaints, safety concerns from advocacy groups

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An auto safety group is going public with its concerns that a possible defect in older model Nissans may cause a safety hazard on the road -- and the dispute is literally "heating up."

The Center for Auto Safety found more than 1,000 Nissan owners have complained to federal regulators their dashboards are melting. The group says this is more than just a cosmetic defect.

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Adam Klock shows us his 2008 Nissan Altima. "It runs great," Klock said. "It just looks like hell."

The body paint is fading significantly. But he says he has a greater concern.

Underneath a piece of felt he placed on his dashboard is what he considers a gooey mess. Klock says the dashboard became so sticky, he didn't even need adhesive to get his felt cover to stay in place.

"You try to cover it up and hide the mess. You don't want to have anyone in your car, because it looks horrible," he said.

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Jason Levine of the Center for Auto Safety thinks he knows what's causing this. "We've got what can really only be described as melting dashboards. They are changing their properties in the sun, in the heat."

On the day we spoke with Klock, the sun managed to peek through the clouds.

Despite overcast skies, Klock says the sun's intensity is enough to reflect off the dashboard, causing what he considers a dangerous glare.

"It's constantly in your face," Klock said. "You cannot avoid the glare unless you lay something over your dashboard that's not going to reflect."

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A class action suit was filed against Nissan by the firm Steckler Wayne Cochran. The suit alleged that the glare is so harsh, it's causing a safety defect.

Most of the complaints to federal regulators are from southern states, but an owner from Oakland of Nissan's luxury brand, Infiniti, complained that his dashboard on his 2004 model bubbled and peeled.

Another Infiniti owner in Campbell said his 2005 Infiniti SUV melted internally and another in San Francisco described his dashboard as cracking.

"We're now starting to see these complaints all over the country. Northern California, Southern California, Arizona. Texas has quite a number of them. It's really all over the country, not just in Southern States," said Levine of the Center for Auto Safety.

7 On Your Side reached out to Nissan, and it said it "has found that this issue does not pose a safety concern. However, we continue to assess any consumer concerns and take appropriate steps in dealing with each case."

The average cost to replace a dashboard is $2,000. The lawsuit filed by Steckler Wayne Cochran ended in a settlement which resulted in Nissan owners in Florida eligible to get theirs replaced for $250, but it only covered owners in Florida.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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