Fiat Chrysler is recalling over 1.5 million pickup trucks to fix a series of airbag problems, including one that could cause the vehicles’ side-impact airbags to inflate inadvertently even when there’s been no crash.
The announcement comes amidst of a rash of airbag-related recalls. But the problems involving Ram pickups are unrelated to the recalls that have so far targeted around 23 million vehicles using potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators. The biggest of two new FCA recalls is related to a wiring defect in various Ram pickup models.
Fiat Chrysler says its investigators discovered that, in some trucks, wires in the steering wheel may rub against a spring and eventually short-circuit, causing a vehicle’s side-impact airbag to inflate without a crash.
The defect impacts 1.35 million Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups and Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs sold primarily in North America during the 2012 through 2014 model-years. FCA says it knows of two injuries, but no crashes, caused by the problem.
A separate recall was issued for 188,000 Ram Quad Cab pickups sold during the 2014 and 2015 model-years. No crashes or injuries have so far been reported. But FCA says it recognized that the side curtain airbags in those vehicles does not comply with federal regulations meant to protect rear passengers in the event of a rollover.
The Detroit maker says it will notify owners to set up service appointments to correct both defects. Repairs will be made at no charge.
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The latest recalls come as Fiat Chrysler falls under intense federal scrutiny of its safety practices. The trans-Atlantic automaker in July signed a consent agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that requires it to be more aggressive in handling safety-related issues. The maker came under fire for its poor handling of dozens of prior recalls and was hit with the largest fine NHTSA has ever levied.
(Hammered over recalls, FCA aims to fix safety problems. Click Here for the story.)
But the auto industry, in general, has been pressed to take more aggressive actions when safety issues are discovered. A total of 64 million vehicles were called back in 2014, double the previous annual record, and that number could be broken again in 2015.
One reason is the huge recall related to faulty Takata airbag inflators. NHTSA recently revised the total number of vehicles involved in that service action to 23.4 million – with millions more affected overseas. The recall covers older models in which Takata inflators may have degraded. In a crash, they can ignite too aggressively, sending shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment, an issue so far linked to eight deaths.
NHTSA has also begun an investigation into newer vehicles using Takata airbags, an issue that could lead to the recall of millions more vehicles.
(Takata troubles could grow substantially. Click Here for an update.)