Jeep #4 Report: New Year, Same ol Leak

All this time I’ve been worried that the leak is still there, and today the leak is undeniable.

One of the theories I developed last year was that the problem is related to weather and develops when we have ice and sleet. I knew our first storm this winter would be the test, and sure enough, my theory held up. (I was hoping it wouldn’t. I was hoping the car really was fixed. It’s not.) The snowmelt is well underway after Blizzard Jonas, and water is getting inside the Jeep again. I’ve logged 8,700 miles to date.

Jeep #4 goes back (for the third time) to see the water specialist on Wednesday. I am one step closer to putting the manufacturer on notice and hiring an attorney.

I made some calls and left some voicemails with the people who previously said things such as:

“We are taking responsibility and we are fixing any defects.”

“The vehicle has been repaired. We have met our obligation.”

  • I called the Jeep Resolution Team (888-542-7239) and got voicemail, of course.
  • I had a live chat with Catherine, who said they would not authorize a loaner car without a diagnosis. Just in case I had forgotten that our battles are not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities, my new case number includes the sequence “666.” (See Ephesians 6:10–17 on our battle against evil.)
  • I called up Pam Szuber in Auburn Hills, who reached out to me last year (got voicemail and left message, of course). Her number is 586-274-8087.
  • I called up Rick Simpson, a customer relations manager at the Mid-Atlantic Business Center, whom I also spoke to last summer. Got voicemail, of course. His number is 410-567-1836.

Last but not least, I found a really good article that discusses when you have a lemon law claim, sending notices to manufacturers, getting a lemon law attorney, setting expectations for a settlement. The section on how car companies try to put you off and make you go away was informative, and true to my experience:

The law always allows the other party to send a response to your claim.  This of course will come to you in the form of a letter from the car manufacturer.  Essentially, they will deny your claim every time.  They will tell you that they have reviewed your claim and are unable to do anything.  This of course is their first lie.  They haven’t reviewed a thing.  They have no idea who you are, what the problem is, or the circumstances of the case.  They merely gave it a weeks to make you think they paid attention and then plunked your name into a form letter that merely says “no”.

Here’s the deal.  Car companies put out so many problem cars that if they honored every request under lemon law, they’d go broke.  So their answer is to honor none of them.  They know that if they deny every claim, probably 70-80% of cases will go away at this point with most people believing that they really don’t have a case.  Car companies also know that if they string out the process as long as they can, the majority of the rest of the cases will also go away because:

1) Many people won’t come up with the money to retain an attorney or will become scared of going to court. 

2) Others will simply decide that going through the lemon law process isn’t worth it and just sell the car.

3) Something can happen to the car, you will move to another city/state and have to start over, or something else.

4) If they can delay it long enough for you to put thousands more miles on the car, even if they do make you an offer, it will be reduced because the car is older and has been used more.  If you put on another 30,000 miles and they settle with you for value, that is 30,000 more miles that they don’t have to pay for.

5) Most that go the distance will settle for their attorney fees and a couple of thousand dollars.

Car companies understand that time is on their side and if they wait it out, they can get rid of about 95% of lemon law cases without even getting close to the courthouse steps.

If for some reason Jeep #4 and I end up in court, (and that is the question of the day: will Jeep #4 and I end up in court?), here’s what we can expect:

Here’s a secret.  Car companies do NOT want to go to court on a lemon law case.  The risk of going to court on lemon law far outweighs what they risk in doing so.  Here’s why:

a) Defending a lemon law case is expensive.  By the time a lemon law trial is done, the car company can easily spend $20,000 defending itself.  These cases are rarely done with their own attorneys so it is money out of pocket.  With that much money at risk, defending a lemon law case is already costly, even if they win.

b) In most cases, lemon law allows you to collect up to triple damages.  That means that if your car costs $25,000, they risk losing $75,000 in the hands of a jury, plus their own attorney fees.  Since they can replace your car at cost AND recover some of their loss in selling your old car, replacing your $25,000 car with a new one can cost them as little as $10,000.  Their choices are therefore to risk losing $100,000 or settle with you at their cost for $10,000.  At a 10-1 ratio, settling looks pretty inviting.

c) Car companies do not want lemon law publicity.  Obviously, your case is not going to make headlines in USA Today or the NY Times, but it still registers as a precedent and can be picked up locally.  Public attention to a lemon law case risks more than a loss in court.  It can also represent loss in brand image and therefore sales when new potential buyers dismiss buying their cars because of the public attention.

Related Jeep News

Poor design; inferior parts, pawning known defects off on customers will catch up to you. If not in this world, then in the next.

It’s time to hold auto executives accountable and include jail time for safety issues. Though million dollar fines seem like a lot to the individual consumer, they are barely a slap on the hand for large automakers, who write it off as the cost of doing business.

UPDATE 2/4/16: Supposedly, the Jeep passed the water tests at the dealership. I did notice a small circular stain that remained. The carpet is so thin it can be hard to tell if it is wet or cold or both. The spot seemed to be in the latter stages of the drying process.

Why and how I had wet carpet (beneath the WeatherTech mat) on Monday remains a mystery. I believe that the problem is related to weather. Both incidents occurred after a thaw-out after several days of freezing temperatures and snow/sleet. Jeep #4 is not an all-season Jeep.

The Questions of the Day are as follows: when will this happen again? how do I document it? Do I wait until the next incident to put the manufacturer on notice that #4 does not conform? Will a lawyer take my case (auto fraud against the dealership or lemon law against the manufacturer)?

I have a query in with a new law firm. I should have pushed harder last year, but kept waiting on the firm in Fairfax to review the facts. When the lawyer finally called me, you could tell by the questions she had not reviewed any of my documentation. If she did not want to take my case, just say so. If she was too busy, just say so.

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No Parts Available for R27 & Other Jeep Saftey News

Jeep #4 Report:  Safety Recall R27

About two weeks ago I received a safety recall notice from FCA Chrysler. It’s for R27—the water leak in the power liftgate module that could cause a fire.

Parts are not available.

The notice also informed me that Jeep #4 was affected by R40 (the hacking issue). Three Jeep owners have filed a lawsuit seeking a class action against FCA Chrysler.

The problem is that moisture is leaking down into the liftgate wiring, causing potential electrical issues and creating a fire hazard. In a statement, FCA says it investigated one reported vehicle fire and determined that the fire was likely the result of water intrusion, which had short-circuited the Cherokee’s power liftgate control module. The automaker is unaware of any related injuries or accidents related to the problem. — CarProUSA.com article 06-25-15

Question of the Day:  According to NHTSA, what is an acceptable amount of time for car owners to wait before the manufacturer makes parts available to dealers and for the dealers to fix the cars? (And when will FCA replace Marchionne?) (And why does water keep leaking inside of Jeeps?)

FCA R27

Jeep Safety News

Jeep #4 Report: More Circles

When Pam Szuber, Head of Business Competency at Chrysler (her title on her LinkedIn account), called me on July 2, she offered to send out a field technician to inspect my car and would call me after the July 4 holiday weekend to schedule. After I got off the phone with her I realized that I failed to tell her that I won’t go to Dulles Motorcars for service. I figured I would address this when she called back.

Of course, she never called back last week. Instead, today I received an e-mail from the service manager at Dulles Motorcars. It reads as follows:

Good morning,

Concerning your water leak, I am having a field Rep. come to the dealer on July 22,2015.  Please let me know if this would be a good time for you.

Thank  you,
Diana Chadwick
Service Manager | Dulles Motorcars Inc.
Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, SRT
KIA, Subaru
107-109 Catoctin Circle SE l Leesburg VA, 20175
703-669-6893

So I had to call and leave Pam Szuber a message that I would need to take my car elsewhere for this “inspection.” Then I sent the following message to the service manager at Dulles Motorcars:

Hi Diana,

When Pam Szuber, Head of Business Competency at Chrysler, called me July 2 and told me she would send a technician to inspect my car, she did not indicate I would be going through a dealership to have this done. If she had mentioned a dealership, I would have told her that it would have to be somewhere other than Dulles Motorcars.

I have stressed to all parties that this is not a warranty issue. This is about Chrysler manufacturing defective cars, sending them to dealers, where they incur water damage, and are sold as new to consumers. As I have stated many times, I deserve a full refund.

I called Pam Szuber and left her a message about this matter.

Jennifer

Um. I don’t need the Head of Business Competency at Chrysler to schedule service visits for me. I can do that. What I need is for Chrysler and dealerships to hold themselves accountable when they sell water-damaged vehicles as new and take the car back and give me a full refund.

Circles and games. Always pressuring the consumer to keep the car so big business and dealers can keep their profits.

There are many others trying to hold Chrysler accountable as well, for much more serious issues. If you read this letter from Paul Sheridan to the Center for Auto Safety, regarding an unsafe Jeep design and failure to remedy the issue through a recall, which resulted in the death of a pregnant young woman, you’ll see how good my chances are.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and NHTSA’s then-administrator, David Stickland, in a last-minute phone call, personally negotiated a deal to recall fewer Jeeps.

Reminder:  The comment period for NHTSA’s investigation of Fiat Chrysler closes on July 17.

Jeep #4 Report: Chrysler Calls Me

I reported June 23 that Dulles Motorcars reached out to me via e-mail asking me to come to the dealership to discuss “the situation with my Jeep Cherokee.” (“The situation” being that Dulles Motorcars sold me a water-damaged Jeep Cherokee and did not feel they were responsible for taking it back and refunding my money.) Since I insisted and the general manager refused to put any offers in writing, the dealership chose to respond to the complaint I opened with the Better Business Bureau (back in March), which they had ignored since March 27.

In the dealership’s most recent letter to the BBB, they indicated that I was unreasonable and unresponsive and were forwarding the issue to the Head of Customer Experience at the Chrysler’s Mid-Atlantic Business Center.

Today an executive referral floor manager called me to discuss “the situation.” She immediately said I did not qualify for a refund from the manufacturer. I explained to her that the Jeep Resolution Team already told me that.

So really, there is no news here:  FCA Chrysler believes it can send defective vehicles to dealerships, where they incur water damage, are then sold to consumers, and both businesses keep their profits. I believe we have reached the point in the story where I need to write letters to my state and federal representatives asking for greater consumer protection. We are not talking about a flat tire. We are talking about water damage. We are talking about a history of water damage in Jeeps that led to a current class action lawsuit in New Jersey. We are talking about a manufacturer that NHTSA is investigating for inadequate safety recall measures and remedies.

What Chrysler offered:  to send a field engineer/technical advisor to come inspect my vehicle. At first I did not want to do that, as I would rather have an independent mechanic do the inspection, but then I accepted. I can watch and document everything he does, I can still find an independent mechanic, and I can still start to make videos whenever things happen like the instrument panel going dim and coming back on after several days of steady rain, and which stopped after the rain stopped and sun came out.

While I had a Chrysler employee on the phone, I asked when I could expect to be notified about the most recent recall on Jeep Cherokees with power lift-gates, which are at risk of catching fire because of…. wait… water leaks! She did not know, as the company is still trying to figure out the extent of the problem. News reports indicate 99k Jeeps in the U.S. are affected.

I asked this question in honor of today’s NHTSA hearing, which is addressing the very issue of FCA Chrysler’s delay in notifying consumers of recalls, in addition to other failures and inadequacies.

This is how Chrysler treats the taxpayers who bailed them out.

…this story continues…

Question of the Day:  What is an FCA Executive Referral Floor Manager?
I found some insight at the Jeep Cherokee Club forum. Seems like they have had to hire a bunch of new ones to handle all the customer complaints.

Jeep News: NHTSA’s Tentative Findings + 10 Days to Comment

Public Hearing Statements

  • UPDATE: Transcript of public hearing, which includes the following statements:
    • Read NHTSA’s Opening Statement by Jennifer Timian, in which she explains what a recall is and how it should work and NHTSA’s concerns about Fiat Chrysler’s handling of its recalls
    • Read Statement of Scott Yon, NHTSA Chief of Vehicle Integrity Division, Office of Defects Investigation
    • Read Statement of Joshua Neff, NHTSA Senior Safety Recall Analyst, in which he discusses Fiat Chrysler’s untimely customer notices and recalls, failures to update NHTSA about changes in notification schedule and recall communications, failures to provide other critical information and submit information on remedy
    • Read Closing Statement by Jennifer Timian

News Reports on Today’s NHTSA Fiat Chrysler Hearing

I believe the current recall on Jeep Cherokees with water leaks that could potentially cause a fire is included in the scope of today’s hearing. Note:  According to Virginia’s lemon law, safety defects must be fixed the first time (versus the three attempts manufacturers have to fix other types of defects). Risk of fire constitutes a serious safety defect.

“If I had received that recall sooner, my son would be alive today.” — Mr Todd Anderson speaking at the hearing

NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind told reporters that he will take action against the automaker — possibly as soon as this month.

“There are times when intervention is warranted,” Timian said, adding that there have been fatalities and injuries from repairs not being made in a timely fashion. “That is why we are here today.”

Rosekind said the agency could also determine whether to forward the case to the U.S. Justice Department for possible criminal action.

Comment Period Closes July 17

Consumers have 10 more days to comment before NHTSA issues a final determination.

  1. Go to regulations.gov.
  2. In the Search field, type NHTSA 2015-0047.
  3. Scroll down and click the Comment Now button.

reggov search

reggov fca

Jeep #4 Report: NHTSA’s July 2 Public Hearing

It seems that I found out about the National Highway Transportation Safety  Administration’s public hearing a little too late. I was thinking about attending, so I went online to find out more details.

Today I read the Supplemental notice of public hearing and learned you must register to attend or speak, and the deadline for registration was yesterday. I just called and left a message with the registrar. I tried to be brief as I recounted how a water-damaged vehicle was sold to me as new and the dealership and manufacturer failed to take the car back and refund my money. For details, I referred her here, to The Evening Rabbit Report blog.

My hope is that the registrar will call me back so that I can learn more about what is going on. Good thing I didn’t just show up at the public hearing unannounced. With 23 recalls, there might not be enough room to fit everyone who wants to attend.

Note:  The Supplemental notice lists 20 recalls, but Web sites with recall information show that FCA is up to 23 recalls, the most recent being the one about the water leak that can cause a fire.

SUMMARY: NHTSA will hold a public hearing on whether Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC (Fiat Chrysler) has reasonably met its obligations to remedy recalled vehicles and to notify NHTSA, owners, and purchasers of recalls. This notice provides supplemental information on the subject matter of the hearing.

It would be great if the public hearing was broadcast live on the Internet! (And I will recommend that to the registrar if she calls me back.) Now that would really be a public hearing. That would also give people an opportunity to say “me, too!” Add one more consumer complaint to the list.

The cutoff date for written comments was June 23. I did not find out about the hearing until June 27. I was remiss on doing my Jeep News Research!

Question of the Day:  To the officials at the public hearing:  Who decides whether the consumer gets a buy back or a replacement? Does the government leave that up to the manufacturer, or is it the consumer’s choice?

Recall Remedy Requirements  A manufacturer of a recalled motor vehicle is required to remedy the vehicle’s defect or noncompliance without charge. 49 U.S.C. 30120(a). The manufacturer may repair the vehicle, replace the vehicle with an identical or reasonably equivalent vehicle, or refund the purchase price, less a reasonable allowance for depreciation. Id. If a manufacturer decides to repair a defect or noncompliance and the repair is not done adequately within a reasonable time, the manufacturer shall replace the vehicle without charge with an identical or reasonably equivalent vehicle, or refund the purchase price, less a reasonable allowance for depreciation. Id. Sec. 30120(c).  On its own motion or on application by any interested person, NHTSA may conduct a hearing to decide whether a manufacturer has reasonably met the remedy requirements. Id. Sec. 30120(e); 49 CFR 557.6. If NHTSA decides that the manufacturer has not reasonably met the remedy requirements, it shall order the manufacturer to take specified action to meet those requirements, including by ordering the manufacturer to refund the purchase price of the defective or noncomplying vehicles, less a reasonable allowance for depreciation. 49 U.S.C. 30120(a), (c), (e); see 49 CFR 557.8. NHTSA may also take any other action authorized by the Safety Act. 49 U.S.C. 30120(e); 49 CFR 557.8. A person that violates the Safety Act, including the remedy requirements, or regulations prescribed thereunder, is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of not more than $7,000 for each violation. 49 U.S.C. 30165(a)(1); 49 CFR 578.6. A separate violation occurs for each motor vehicle and for each failure to perform a required act. Id. The maximum penalty for a related series of violations is $35,000,000. Id.

My message to government officials for the July 2 public hearing:  Fiat Chrysler continues to manufacture Jeeps with defects that allow water to get into the interior, including the dashboard (not just affecting the power lift-gate). I was sold one of these vehicles on March 2, 2015. Supposedly the water leak caused by the faulty sunroof drain tube was fixed. I disagree. I believe smaller amounts of water continue to get in the car, and this is what causes my instrument panel to go dim and brighten at random intervals when we have a steady rain. When I took the car back a second time, the dealership service center insisted the problem was fixed. It is not fixed. The car is defective, and I want and believe I deserve a full refund.

UPDATE:  a few hours later…  A wonderful attorney at NHTSA just called and informed me that the comment period is not closed and explained to me how to submit my statement online. She was most encouraging to me about the Jeep #4 drama. God Bless You Kara Fisher!

nhsta case