— Dodge Dart clutch issues are still being heard in a California courtroom as the judge hears evidence of alleged problems that cause the clutch pedals to stay on the floorboards, leaving drivers unable to shift gears of the manual transmissions.
The lawsuit alleges Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) manufactured and sold 2013-2016 Dodge Dart cars with Fiat C635 manual transmissions that have issues with stalling, acceleration and complete failures of the transmissions.
Even if the entire transmissions don't go out, the plaintiffs claim multiple parts can fail, including the clutch discs and pressure plates, the flywheels, hoses, bearings and master and slave cylinders.
The clutch issues are allegedly caused by the clutch reservoir hose that falls apart and releases "plasticizer and fibers" that contaminate the hydraulic fluid used to lubricate the clutch systems. This, according to the plaintiffs, causes the internal and external seals to swell and fail.
According to the plaintiffs, all the components that have been exposed to the contaminated fluid must be replaced and any steel tubing must also be thoroughly cleaned with brake cleaner and blown out until dry to ensure that none of the contaminants remain.
The lawsuit also claims Chrysler designed and made the clutch slave cylinders out of aluminum bodies with clipped-on plastic bases while other automakers use a slave cylinder made of a single, solid cast aluminum component which creates a rigid base. With the Dodge Dart design, the plaintiffs claim the two-piece design destabilizes the cylinder at its base.
According to the clutch lawsuit, this design “can result in unintended lateral movement and cause the piston inside the cylinder to become jammed.”
On August 27, 2016, Chrysler issued technical service bulletin (TSB) 06-001-16 called “Clutch Pedal Operation X62 Extended Warranty” which superseded a prior bulletin. The extended warranty included 2013-2015 Dodge Darts, allegedly due to a previous Dart clutch class-action lawsuit called Hardt v. Chrysler Group LLC that was filed in 2014 alleging the same transmission and clutch issues.
Both parties acknowledge the x62 extended warranty was a voluntary action:
“which included reimbursements for past repairs and an extended warranty period for free replacements of the reservoir hose and clutch master cylinder [that] was implemented by FCA US to address an issue involving seal-swelling from the use of a particular kind of leaching plasticizer in a reservoir hose in the clutch system.”
However, while the plaintiffs admit Chrysler extended the warranty, the entire process is allegedly a waste of time because replacement parts are no better than the parts that originally failed.
Chrysler told the judge the lawsuit should be dismissed, as the automaker did in the past, but the judge ruled the case will move forward based on certain claims made by the plaintiffs.
FCA argues the plaintiffs have not presented any evidence of a defect in the clutch system but are merely alleging symptoms due to “normal wear and tear,” something the automaker doesn't consider a safety risk.
Chrysler told the judge the "alleged defects do not implicate any safety issues because the defect manifested itself to provide advance warning to Plaintiffs so that repairs could be sought before a serious issue arose." However, the plaintiffs argue internal FCA documents say the clutch pedal issues prevented drivers from shifting gears on the freeway, something which created a safety issue.
However, the judge had already concluded in Chrysler's previous motion to dismiss that the plaintiffs had showed a "genuine issue of material fact" that the alleged clutch defect was not due to “normal wear and tear.” The judge ruled Chrysler hasn't presented any additional facts that would change the previous conclusion.
FCA did make headway against claims it knew about a specific defect with the clutch slave cylinder as the judge dismissed two related claims alleging the automaker knew about the specific issues before the plaintiffs purchased their cars.
The judge also agreed with claims of implied breach of warranty of merchantability against Chrysler because the judge had already concluded the plaintiffs raised a genuine issue of fact whether the alleged clutch defects are an unreasonable safety hazard.
The judge also dismissed one of the unjust enrichment claims from one of the plaintiffs, but allowed the other claim concerning the alleged defects in the clutch master cylinder and reservoir hose.
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.
CarComplaints.com has owner-reported issues with the model year Dodge Dart cars named in the clutch lawsuit: