Chrysler Pacifica: Dangerous Lemon
A consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader and Consumers Union is gain taking aim at FCA US, this time over instances of stalling being alleged by dozens of consumers while driving the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
The Center for Auto Safety is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open an investigation and issue an immediate recall of the 150,000 affected Pacificas, which the group says represent an “unreasonable risk to the public.”
As of Monday morning, there were 99 consumer complaints on NHTSA’s Safercar.gov website concerning the Pacifica, including dozens alleging that the minivan had stalled at various speeds or while idling. Some consumers complained of multiple losses of power. The Center for Auto Safety said that neither Chrysler nor its service technicians had been able to replicate the alleged stalling, and that the automaker had not yet determined a cause.
The loss of control can lead to accidents that result in death or injury, including being struck by another vehicle while disabled on the roadside, the center said. No fatalities or significant injuries have been reported as a result of the alleged problem.
None of the 2017 Pacifica’s four previous recalls concerned engine or transmission operation. The Pacifica has a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which is widely used across the automaker’s lineup, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission that has proven problematic for the automaker in several front-wheel-drive vehicles, such as the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and the 2016 Fiat 500X.
The Center for Auto Safety, in its letter to NHTSA, said the Pacifica’s stalling problem had been known internally since April, but that the automaker has yet to issue a recall because it has not yet identified the cause.
Based on correspondence to consumers, FCA has not identified the source of failure and said drivers should continue driving their vehicles, the center’s executive director, Jason Levine, told Automotive News.
Another sign that FCA has not developed a remedy is that dealerships are trying a wide range of unrelated fixes to correct the stalling when vehicles are brought in for service, he said. Some dealers are asking customers to continue driving with a data recorder to help determine the cause of the failure.
“Asking people to serve as crash-test dummies is not acceptable,” Levine said.
“Just as it is not necessary for Chrysler to identify the exact cause of the defect before it provides its owners loaner vehicles for their safety, NHTSA should not wait for a body count to exercise its authority under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act to ensure consumer safety,” Levine said in a statement.
FCA declined requests for comment from Automotive News. The automaker told the Associated Press that it was “monitoring the data and will respond if a safety defect is found.”
FCA’s recent history with the Center for Auto Safety has been unpleasant. The center championed a fight to force FCA to recall 2.7 million Jeep Libertys, Cherokees and Grand Cherokees with fuel tanks behind the rear axle, which the consumer group claimed was the cause of a large number of post-collision fatal fires. FCA ultimately agreed to recall 1.56 million Libertys and Grand Cherokees to add tow-hitch assemblies around the fuel tanks to lessen their exposure.
FCA is in the third year of a consent decree it negotiated with NHTSA over failings during its handling of previous recall campaigns. That 2015 agreement called for the automaker to pay up to $105 million in fines and civil penalties and placed under the guidance of a special monitor to improve its recall performance.