— Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) is asking a federal judge to dismiss a Dodge Dart clutch lawsuit based on a lack of evidence concerning defects in the clutch or transmission.
According to court documents, the Dart clutch master cylinder has defects that affect the seals and causes a loss of hydraulic fluid to the slave cylinder, damaging transmission components.
The lawsuit was filed by Carlos Victorino and Adam Tavitian who allege 2013-2016 Dodge Dart clutches fail and stick to the floors because the clutch pedals lose pressure and fail to engage the gears. Drivers allegedly experience failures of the flywheels, pressure plates, clutch slave cylinders, release bearings, clutch discs, reservoir hoses and clutch master cylinders.
With so many things that can go wrong, the plaintiffs say the cars have acceleration and stalling problems, in addition to owners experiencing complete transmission failures.
One plaintiff complains his Dodge Dart experienced transmission problems that made it feel as though the gears weren't catching, causing him to take the car to a dealer. The dealership said the clutch was worn out but also said the problem was from normal wear and tear after 34,000 miles of driving.
The owner was allegedly stuck with paying more than $1,000 for repairs after FCA refused to cover the expenses.
The other plaintiff ran into trouble with Chrysler because after experiencing clutch problems, the automaker learned the Dart owner had exchanged the odometer and replaced it with one that had nearly 29,000 miles less than it was supposed to have.
The owner paid about $300 for clutch repairs, but Chrysler wouldn't cover the costs because the plaintiff had tampered with the odometer.
FCA tried to get the lawsuit dismissed in 2016 but the judge denied the motion and ruled, "The Court concludes that these facts, while close, create a plausible inference that the corporate officers knew about the alleged defect and withheld such material information from Plaintiffs."
The manual transmissions allegedly have suffered for problems for years as the lawsuit claims Chrysler started sending technical service bulletins to dealerships in January 2012. The first notice concerned 2011-2012 Dodge Journeys equipped with the same Fiat C635 transmissions as the Darts.
That was followed in 2012 by another bulletin sent to dealers, this time about Dodge Darts “equipped with defective clutch slave cylinders and could cause a hydraulic fluid leak which leads to a pressure loss in the clutch system and failure of the clutch pedal.”
Then in 2014, FCA notified dealers again about Dodge Darts, this time concerning clutch pedals getting stuck on the floors. Chrysler eventually extended the warranty period for the clutch master cylinders and reservoir hoses in 2013-2015 Darts after complaints about clutch problems.
According to the plaintiffs, repairs made to the clutch systems didn't do anything to fix the problems, such as when a Dodge Dart customer service program was created after a previous Dart transmission lawsuit was dismissed. The program was ordered based on complaints about clutch pedals that felt soft or would stick to the floorboards, but the plaintiffs argue all Chrysler did was replace defective parts with more defective parts.
Chrysler says the lawsuit should be dismissed because both plaintiffs can't prove the clutches are defective, only that the clutches needed repairs after nearly two years of driving the cars.
FCA told the judge that a part that needs repaired after two years of driving doesn't mean the part is defective and that parts won't last forever. Attorneys for FCA also told the court there would be no need for limited warranties if parts never experienced problems and what the plaintiffs experienced with their clutches involves normal wear and tear of vehicle parts.
The Dodge Dart clutch lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California - Victorino et al, v. FCA US LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Capstone Law APC.
Read transmission and clutch complaints about Dodge Dart cars: