Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has announced the recall of nearly 300,000 Dodge minivans due to faulty front airbags.
The safety devices have unexpectedly deployed on a number of occasions, resulting in at least eight minor injuries, the automaker reported, a problem that could also have resulted in vehicle crashes. The new recall follows a previous airbag service action by FCA that involved over 1 million vehicles.
“Wiring may chafe against pieces of steering-wheel trim, potentially causing a short-circuit,” Fiat Chrysler said about the case of the latest airbag recall. “This may lead to a second short-circuit that is potentially capable of producing inadvertent deployment of the driver-side front air bag.”
The recall involves 209,135 Dodge Grand Caravan minivans sold in the U.S., and another 87,703 sold in Canada. Only 2011 and 2012 model-year vans are affected. Though based on the same platform as the Dodge model, the Chrysler Town & Country minivan is not affected because it uses a different steering wheel trim package.
FCA initially reported as many as 13 injuries were caused by the problem but downgraded that to eight.
The Euro-American automaker plans to notify owners late next month advising them to take their vehicles to dealers who will inspect wiring and, if necessary, make repairs. A protective covering will be installed on all vehicles to reduce the risk of chafing wires.
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The new recall comes barely a month after FCA announced that 1.25 million light and medium-duty versions of the full-size Ram pickups sold during the 2013 through 2016 model-years would need repairs. In that instance, a software glitch can cause some of the vehicles’ airbags and seatbelts to fail during rollover crashes. To prevent the problem from reoccurring, FCA will need to reprogram a faulty onboard sensor.
The new minivan recall is the latest in a series of airbag problems plaguing the auto industry in recent years. Manufacturers have ordered repairs on tens of millions of vehicles for a variety of problems, including faulty software and sensors, as well as worn wiring.
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But the biggest airbag problem has centered around defective devices manufactured by Japanese supplier Takata. That has led to the largest automotive recall in history, impacting as many as 70 million airbags used in over 50 million vehicles worldwide. The Takata problem has now been linked to at least a dozen deaths in the U.S. and numerous additional fatalities abroad.
Takata in January agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges filed by the U.S. Justice Department. It also set up a fund to compensate victims and the families of those killed by its defective airbags. This month, however, Robert Mueller resigned as head of the victims’ fund to take on the role of special counsel probing possible Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election. A new fund director is expected to be announced within the next few weeks.
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