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Chrysler and Dodge Minivan Airbags May Fail; NHTSA Disagrees with Proposed Service Plan

Front crash sensors may be defective, but Chrysler won't recall.

by on Feb.25, 2010

NHTSA makes a tough and controversial decision.

Chrysler is conducting what it deems is a “safety improvement campaign” – and not a safety recall – covering model year 2005-2006 Dodge Caravan, Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Town & Country Vehicles.

More than 312,000 minivans in 27 states are affected –thus far.

A memo from the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission said it does not agree with Chrysler’s plan, but also says, “in the interest of remedying the affected vehicles expeditiously and to avoid a protracted dispute, Chrysler is implementing steps to replace the front crash sensors.”

In other words, Chrysler refuses to conduct a formal safety recall. Moreover, NHTSA is making a judgment call that allows some of the sensors to be replaced instead insisting that Chrysler replace of all of them – a remedy which would apparently require lengthy legal action.

This service action controversy comes after NHTSA Administrator Ray LaHood faced two days of tough questioning at Congressional hearings over the safety agency’s actions – or lack of actions – in Toyota unintended acceleration or sticky accelerator pedal defects that are allegedly responsible for as many as 34 deaths. Critics contend that NHTSA closed investigations prematurely, or limited their scope, thereby missing early warnings of Toyota safety defects.

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Analysis Not Bites!

Front airbag sensors or a control module may be defective in hundreds of thousands of minivans. The front crash sensors in question may crack under “environmental conditions” where road salt is in common use, and allow water to enter the sensor. This can cause the sensor to become inoperative and illuminate the airbag warning light. These sensors were added to enhance the performance of the airbag system in certain frontal crashes and are not required to comply with the law, according to a Chrysler memo to the NHTSA.   (more…)