Safety regulators and public have harsh words for Chrysler during July 2 public hearing.

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Safety regulators and public have harsh words for Chrysler during July 2 public hearing.

— U.S. safety regulators and owners of Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) vehicles let the automaker have it with both barrels in a public hearing that accused Chrysler of failures in its recall process.

The hearing was called after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noticed the automaker wasn't following federal regulations concerning 20 safety recalls. Additional information was discovered which caused NHTSA to add three recalls to the list, bringing the total of questionable recalls to 23.

NHTSA says it identified ways Fiat Chrysler failed to do it's job in all the recalls, something that could possible cost the automaker as much as $805 million, but only if the maximum penalty was applied to all 23 recalls.

Government officials said Chrysler failed in notifying customers about recalls and in many cases made customers wait long periods of time for repairs. In other cases, the automaker failed to even figure out how to repair recalled vehicles.

Scott Kunselman, senior vice president for vehicle safety and regulatory compliance at Chrysler, admitted the automaker could have done a better job with the 23 recalls in question and changes have been made to the recall process.

"The Agency has raised some legitimate questions about the way FCA US has managed certain safety recalls. We acknowledge and understand those concerns." - Scott Kunselman

Kunselman said his job is one example of the changes made by Chrysler, a position created in September 2014, and a job normally performed by a person three levels removed from the CEO, Sergio Marchionne. Kunselman said his new position means he reports directly to Marchionne.

Chrysler also created another new position called the Director of Safety Compliance and Product Analysis. Kunselman said the job of the safety compliance director is to make sure every recall is monitored until the recall is completed.

Kunselman also responded to the recall fatigue experienced by owners due to the constant need to keep taking vehicles back to dealerships. Fiat Chrysler said it's using customer appreciation programs for owners in an attempt to convince owners to get their vehicles repaired.

Further, Kunselman said the automaker is actively tracking what customers say after a recall, especially any complaints made by owners.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, had harsh words for Chrysler over its handling of recalls. One example is the 2013 Jeep recall to install a trailer hitch to allegedly help protect the fuel system and gas tank in a rear-end crash.

Ditlow said Fiat Chrysler never wanted to order the Jeep trailer hitch recall and never notified NHTSA of a defect despite quietly settling at least 44 lawsuits since the Jeep Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1993. Those lawsuits were kept quiet behind confidentiality agreements which kept NHTSA in the dark about the problems.

Mr. Ditlow said over two years after the recall began, only 5.9% of 1.5 million 1993-98 Grand Cherokees and 25 percent of 1 million 2002-07 Jeep Liberty SUVs have been fixed.

"When it comes to recalls, Fiat Chrysler is an outlaw. Fiat Chrysler conceals defects in order to avoid recalls. When forced to recall, Fiat Chrysler delays repairs for years and even refuses to do repairs." - Clarence Ditlow

Although Chrysler was the focus of the July 2 hearing, NHTSA itself has faced strong criticism from Congress for allowing General Motors to get by with selling cars with defective ignition switches for over 10 years.  That criticism caused NHTSA to change its policies and start taking a forceful role in the safety of vehicles.

There is little doubt NHTSA will take take strong actions against Fiat Chrysler and use the automaker as an example of what not to do during the recall process.

One option the government could use is to require Chrysler to buy back vehicles that are included in the recalls. However, safety regulators said it might be weeks before they decide what actions to take against the automaker.

Chrysler Recalls

According to NHTSA, the following 23 Chrysler recalls were not performed according to federal safety regulations:

1. Vehicle can exceed speed rating of tires

Chrysler announced a recall of 1,771 vehicles on May 18, 2015, to correct a defect that allows the vehicle to exceed the speed rating of its tires. Affected vehicles have a maximum governed speed of 106 mph, but are fitted with tires that are only rated for a maximum speed of 87 mph.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2014-2015 Ram 4500 and 5500

2. Loss of power brake assist

Chrysler announced a recall of 644,354 vehicles on April 1, 2014, to correct a defect in the brake booster with a center shell that may corrode and allow water to get inside, which could freeze and cause the power brake assist to fail.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2011-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2011-2014 Dodge Durango

3. Fuel heater may leak and increase fire risk

Chrysler announced a recall of 314,704 vehicles on October 8, 2014, to correct a defect in the electrical connectors of the diesel fuel heater. If the connectors overheat, the fuel heater may leak fuel and increase the risk of a vehicle fire.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2010-2014 Ram 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500

4. Loosening of the rear axle pinion nut causing loss of vehicle control

Chrysler announced a recall of 278,229 vehicles on February 6, 2013, to correct a defect that may cause the axle to lock. As a result, the driver may lose steering power and crash.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2009 Chrysler Aspen
  • 2009 Dodge Durango
  • 2009-2012 Dodge Ram 1500
  • 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota

5. Rear fuel tank structure’s risk of failure

Chrysler announced a recall of 1,560,000 vehicles on June 19, 2013, for defective gas tanks that can catch fire if the vehicle is struck from behind.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty

6. Failure of the left tie-rod assembly resulting in loss of steering control

Chrysler announced its recall of 36,710 vehicles on November 6, 2013, to fix a defect that may cause the driver to lose steering power and crash.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2008-2012 Dodge Ram 4500
  • 2008-2012 Dodge Ram 5500

7. Failure of the left tie-rod assembly resulting in loss of steering control

Chrysler announced its recall of 706,664 vehicles on November 6, 2013, to fix a defect that may cause the driver to lose steering power and crash.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2006-2008 Dodge Ram 1500
  • 2003-2008 Dodge Ram 2500
  • 2003-2008 Dodge Ram 3500

8. Failure of the left tie-rod assembly resulting in loss of steering control

Chrysler announced its recall of 265,057 vehicles on November 6, 2013, to repair and replace steering linkages that may cause the driver to lose steering power and crash.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2008 Dodge Ram 1500
  • 2008-2012 Dodge Ram 2500
  • 2008-2012 Dodge Ram 3500

9. Inadvertent ignition switch movement turning off the engine

Chrysler announced its recall of 702,578 vehicles on June 26, 2014 because the ignition switch is defective and can get knocked out of the run position. As a result the engine can turn off and the vehicle can stall. Further, if the ignition key is off, the airbags will not deploy.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2008-2010 Chrysler Town and Country
  • 2008-2010 Dodge Grand Caravan
  • 2009-2010 Dodge Journey

10. Vanity lamp wiring shortages resulting in fire

Chrysler announced its recall of 651,130 vehicles on July 2, 2014, to fix a defect involving the wiring for the vanity lamp in the sun visor. The wires can short-circuit and lead to a car fire.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2011-2014 Dodge Durango
  • 2011-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

11. Inadvertent ignition switch movement turning off the engine

Chrysler announced its recall of 643,618 vehicles on July 21, 2014, because the ignition switch can get knocked out of the run position. The result is the engine can suddenly turn off. Further, if the ignition key is off the airbags will not deploy.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2006-2007 Jeep Commander
  • 2005-2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee

12. Inadvertent ignition switch movement turning off the engine

Chrysler announced its recall of 291,703 vehicles on September 17, 2014, because the ignition switch can stick, causing electrical issues. This may result in the engine turning off unexpectedly, putting the driver at risk of getting into a crash. Further, if the ignition key is off, the airbags will not deploy in that crash.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2008 Chrysler 300
  • 2008 Dodge Charger
  • 2008 Jeep Commander
  • 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2008 Dodge Magnum

13. Sudden failure of the alternator

Chrysler announced a recall of 434,600 vehicles on October 8, 2014, because of defective alternators. As a result, the vehicle may stall.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2011-2014 Chrysler 300
  • 2011-2014 Dodge Challenger
  • 2011-2014 Dodge Charger
  • 2011-2014 Dodge Durango
  • 2012-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

14. Inoperative instrument cluster causing vehicle failure

Chrysler announced its recall of 11,668 vehicles on November 24, 2014. This issue could cause the gauges to oscillate at zero and the vehicle theft alarm could remain illuminated.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2015 Dodge Challenger

15. Broken springs in the clutch ignition interlock switch

Chrysler announced a recall of 54,061 vehicles on December 16, 2014, to fix a defective manual transmission that can cause the clutch to break. As a result, the vehicle can stall.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2006-2007 Dodge Dakota
  • 2006 Mitsubishi Raider
  • 2006-2007 Dodge Ram 1500
  • 2006-2007 Dodge Ram 2500
  • 2006-2007 Dodge Ram 3500

16. Loosening of the rear axle pinion nut causing loss of vehicle control

Chrysler announced its recall of 256,956 vehicles on December 16, 2013, to fix a defect that can cause the rear axle to seize or driveshaft to detach. As a result, the driver can lose control of the vehicle and is at risk of getting into a crash.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2005 Dodge Ram 1500

17. Potential airbag inflator rupture

Chrysler announced a recall of 2,908,790 vehicles nationwide on December 24, 2014, to replace defective driver-side airbags manufactured by Takata that can explode.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2005-2007 Chrysler 300
  • 2005-2007 Chrysler 300C
  • 2007 Chrysler Aspen
  • 2005-2007 Chrysler SRT8
  • 2005-2007 Dodge Charger
  • 2005-2007 Dodge Dakota
  • 2004-2007 Dodge Durango
  • 2005-2007 Dodge Magnum
  • 2004-2007 Dodge Ram 1500
  • 2005-2007 Dodge Ram 2500
  • 2006-2007 Dodge Ram 3500
  • 2006-2007 Mitsubishi Raider

18. Unintended side-curtain airbag deployment

Chrysler announced a recall of 230,240 vehicles on January 28, 2015, because defective side airbags were deploying unexpectedly.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee

19. Inadvertent airbag deployment

Chrysler announced a recall of 753,176 vehicles on January 28, 2015, to fix a defect in the electronic control module that could cause front airbags, side airbags and seat belt pretensioners to inadvertently deploy.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2003-2004 Dodge Viper
  • 2002-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • 2002-2003 Jeep Liberty

20. Contaminated, dislodged or broken parking pawl or park rod

Chrysler announced a recall of 21,465 vehicles on February 13, 2015, to fix a defective parking lock. The driver may think the car is securely parked because the driver shifted into the park gear. But due to the defect, the vehicle could roll away.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2015 Chrysler 200

21. Fuel leak near an ignition source

Chrysler announced its recall of 1,873 vehicles on February 28, 2015, to replace a defective fuel hose that may result in a leak and cause the car to catch fire.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2015 Dodge Challenger
  • 2015 Dodge Charger

22. Fuel pump relay causing a vehicle to stall without warning

Chrysler announced a recall of 338,216 vehicles on February 27, 2015, to fix defective Totally Integrated Power Modules (TIPM). The failure of this system could cause the engine to stall.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2012-2013 Dodge Durango
  • 2012-2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee

23. Driver and passenger side door latch failure

Chrysler announced a recall of 1,451 vehicles on March 27, 2015, because the doors can inadvertently open while the vehicle is in motion.

Vehicles under recall:

  • 2013-2014 Dodge Viper

 

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