The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation into whether Chrysler Group LLC minivans with full fuel tanks are stalling. This probe is in response to a consumer complaint indicating that the stalling could be dangerous. Dodge Grand Caravan owner Brian Rosa of Union, N.J., complained to NHTSA in July in a letter that his 2007 minivan began stalling after it had been refueled.
Mr. Rosa said the problem started in June when his wife and children were traveling on a highway and the engine stalled. His wife was driving around a bend in the road, and when the car stalled, she couldn’t operate the steering wheel, according to Mr. Rosa. He wrote in his complaint to NHTSA:
This only happens when the fuel tank is refueled to capacity. This is a major safety issue, and my hope is that Chrysler makes good on a defective part.
NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has acknowledged that it had received a petition claiming the minivans were stalling when the gas tank was filled to capacity. Chrysler dealt with a similar problem on its Chrysler 300s and Dodge Magnums and Chargers last year, according to NHTSA. According to that investigation, some models of those vehicles would stall when the car was stopped or driving slowly after the fuel tank had been filled to capacity. NHTSA concluded that the condition represented a low risk to drivers and was adequately addressed by the company’s extended warranty. The investigation by NHTSA was closed in February.
Chrysler recalled about 792,000 older Jeep models in July over an ignition-switch defect. That followed an announcement by NHTSA that it had opened two investigations into possible ignition-switch defects in approximately 1.25 million Chrysler Group vehicles. As we have reported, this was a similar problem to the defect that led to a massive General Motors Co. (GM) recall that has caused hundreds of deaths.
A putative class action was filed in California federal court alleging Chrysler concealed from consumers a known defect in the ignition switches of older Jeep models that can lead to engine stalling or air bag failure. In August, the Center for Auto Safety filed a petition with NHTSA, urging the agency to issue a safety recall related to Chrysler’s “totally integrated power module,” (TIPM) a computer that controls a range of systems in millions of Chrysler vehicles.
In the Aug. 21st letter to NHTSA Acting Administrator David J. Friedman, the consumer advocacy group said it has received 70 complaints related to the Chrysler TIPM, and that NHTSA has received “hundreds if not thousands” of complaints detailing vehicle stalling, airbags not deploying and instrument panel failures related to problems with the TIPM. Chrysler owners are paying for their own TIPM replacements and waiting weeks or months for the parts while remaining “at the mercy of a defect which many have likened to the vehicle being possessed and uncontrollable,” the advocacy group wrote in its petition. It will be interesting to see how NHTSA handles this investigation. We will watch it closely.
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