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

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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

Jeep #4 Report: Jeep Resolution Team Offer Not Satisfactory

My case manager from the Jeep Resolution Team called today to tell me what Chrysler would and would not do for me.

What Chrysler would not do:  buy back or replace the vehicle (a buyback/refund is what I wanted and think is warranted in this case).

What Chrysler was willing to do and nothing more (a take it or leave it offer):  augment my warranty from 3 years / 36,000 miles to 5 years / 60,000 miles Maximum Care. (Didn’t the 5 yr/60k warranty used to be standard? I mean, after manufacturers stopped giving the 10 yr/100k warranty?)

Question of the Day:  Are there any car manufacturers in business that back the product they sell?

The upgraded Max Care warranty comes with a $100 deductible and includes rental car coverage and towing. The value of this offer is $1,030.

Once again, I felt the need to remind her that this is about a manufacturer sending defective products to dealers, the product sustaining damage as a result, and then dealers selling damaged goods as though they were new, and everyone absolving themselves of responsibility. This is not about a repair being made after the fact. A car with water damage cannot be made “like new.”

I asked if there was a way to escalate the issue, and she said no. I asked what happens if I say no, is that the end of it? And she said, yes. I ask if accepting this offer precluded me from taking further action to get a refund or replacement, and she said no. At first glance, it seemed like accepting the offer might be okay to do.

Then I thought about it some more:  right now my standard 3 yr/36k warranty does not have a deductible. Does accepting this offer mean that I will now be charged $100 for items under warranty? [UPDATE 3/18:  I left two voicemail messages with my contact at the Jeep Resolution Team to find out.]

[UPDATE 3/20:  I confirmed that the $100 deductible does not kick in until the extended warranty kicks in. While that is good news, this offer is still not satisfactory. I paid for a new car with no water damage, and that is what Chrysler and its dealerships ought to deliver.]

Note to Chris W, whom I met at Fair Oaks Jeep Service Center this morning:  She was not going to give me the zero deductible, no way, no how. Thanks for talking Jeep Shop with me this morning. All the best to you and with your JGC.

While the Jeep Resolution Team branch of the Jeep #4 Car Drama has concluded, as far as I know… the main story continues…

Jeep #4 Day 8

Question of the Day:  Will the Manufacturer Refund My Money? (because the GM at the dealership has made clear he won’t)

Today I called and filed a case with Chrysler, asking for a refund. I should hear back from them later this week.

Meanwhile

The counteroffer from the dealership smells more and more suspicious.

The general manager at Dulles Motorcars insists that the dealership has no accountability here. But, as a “courtesy,” he is, for a limited time only, offering a replacement.

The issue is not with the dealership but with the factory. As a courtesy we can do a substitution of collateral.

I can’t find a legal definition of “substitution of collateral.” He says in the e-mail exchange this would be a vehicle obtained from another dealer with “some miles on it.” He would not give me specifics, other than it has one or two items that were not on the original vehicle, which I would not have to pay for.

Is it one or is it two additional options? What are they? Are you going to send me a Web link so I can check it out? I need to see the window sticker. Is this a demo? Has this “substantial collateral” replacement had repair work? Does water leak in it? How many miles is “some miles”?

I paid for a new car, not a “substantial collateral” car. I want to see a word like “equivalent.”

I asked him how long this “courtesy” would be available and he said:

As long as the replacement is available. If that vehicle is sold then you are responsible for any difference in price should you choose one w more options. Also you might have to switch colors

General Manager Dulles Motorcars inc. Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, KIA, Subaru

Exploring Other Potential Avenues of Justice

I spoke with the state AG office this morning and was told that I do not have to accept a replacement vehicle, but I’m not sure if she means from the dealer or from the manufacturer. I also had the impression that any replacement would need to be exactly like the one I selected. She said something about a “replacement” not meeting the Terms & Conditions of the original contract. I told her all this was beyond my understanding, and that I would appreciate her help.

I will put my claim together and mail it off later this week.

Why I Don’t Want a Replacement

Do I need a reason?

Aside from the current class-action lawsuit on leaky sunroofs… we can add the following reports about problems with the 2015 Cherokee:

…this story continues…

Jeep #4 – Day 5

The Question of the Week:  What is the right and just thing to do in this situation?

The dealership sells me a new car that has water damage because of defects in the sunroof drain tube. These things happen. Factories don’t produce perfect products each and every time.

  • What should the dealership do?
  • What should I expect?
  • What should the manufacturer do?

Lemon Law of Virginia

At this time, we don’t know if the car is a lemon. I am gathering information, in case Jeep #4 has repeated problems.

The lemon law of Virginia is good for 18 months after purchase. If after three attempts to fix the problem, the problem returns, the consumer may file a lemon law claim. If the problem is a safety issue, the problem must be fixed the first time. The first step in the process is for the consumer to notify the manufacturer of intent to file a claim (mailing a certified/return receipt letter), and give the manufacturer 15 days to fix the problem. [Again, I guess.]

My main concern is that the car’s defect caused water damage that existed before the sale. This damage reduces the value of the car. If I tried to sell this car, I would be asked if this car has ever had water damage, and I would have to say yes. The value is affected significantly. (How much exactly I don’t know, but certainly this car’s value is much less than one that has not had this problem.)

Customer Service Asks About My Car Buying Experience

Yesterday (day 5 of ownership) I received a boilerplate e-mail from the dealership’s Customer Service department. I wondered why she was not already aware of what was going on, as I had sent at least half a dozen e-mails, probably more if we count them, to the sales manager and general manager. (That is an aside.)

Patience Is a Virtue

I succeeded in practicing patience (for the briefest of periods and with the help of Other Plans) by not responding right away. It is Lent and a Friday, so I had plans to go to church and pray the Stations of the Cross. It also happened to be the First Friday of the month, a day where I go to First Friday Mass and Adoration as a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This was a perfect opportunity to stop and put all this in an eternal perspective and to ask for the Peace of Christ to enter me regardless of the outcome.

This was an expensive car. Not the most expensive, not the least, but a pretty penny, for sure, and without question the major purchase of the next decade of my life according to my known budget.

Putting Things Into Perspective

My neighbors help me put this issue into perspective. Marilyn and Leonard are both 80. Leonard has been caring for Marilyn since she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 20 years ago. I took them some soup and salad on Thursday because Meals on Wheels does not deliver if schools are closed. I was pretty sure, with the bad weather, they would not deliver Friday (yesterday) either. Marilyn’s Parkinson’s is advanced. Leonard describes her as being in the third quarter. When I visited the past two days, her eyes were closed for most of the visit. She was not able to speak to me very much, but she knew I was there. I told her all about my new car drama. When I asked her if she enjoyed hearing my story, she was able to say yes. Yesterday I fed her dinner and said something that made her laugh really hard. They helped me forget about worldly things and re-center my mind and heart on more important things. It is my hope that I was able to lighten their burden, if only ever so briefly.

Ready to Respond

I came home from church last night ready to respond to the e-mail from Customer Service. I began my e-mail by asking for forgiveness. I assumed from day 1 that the dealership would not do the right thing, but now Customer Service has said they do want to resolve this problem.

I requested that the dealership allow me to return the car and void the sale.

…this story is to be continued…


Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts. See if there is a wicked path in me; lead me along an ancient path. — Psalm 139:23–24


Blessed are those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit. — Jeremiah 17:7–8