US agency denies request for Fiat Chrysler investigation

AP News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2015 5:18 PM

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. auto safety regulators have rejected a request from an advocacy group to investigate power system failures in almost 5 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles that potentially could cause stalling and other problems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted Tuesday that two fuel pump relay recalls took care of stalling and "no start" problems, and that there was no valid evidence to support the group's other claims.

The Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit group founded by Ralph Nader, filed a petition last August asking for an investigation. It contended that an electrical power control module used by Chrysler in millions of vehicles since 2007 can go haywire, causing them to stall in traffic and cut off devices powered by electricity. The allegation covered Ram pickup trucks, Chrysler and Dodge minivans, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Dodge Journey SUVs, the Jeep Wrangler, and other models.

But the agency said it analyzed consumer complaint data and determined that problems were addressed by fuel pump relay recalls.

"No valid evidence was presented in support of claims related to air bag non-deployment, unintended acceleration or fire" due to problems with the power control modules, the agency wrote. "These claims were found to be wholly without merit based on review of the field data and design of the relevant systems and components."

In September of last year, Fiat Chrysler recalled nearly 189,000 2011 Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos to fix the fuel pump relays. Then it added 338,000 2012 and 2013 vehicles in February.

NHTSA said additional investigation was unlikely to bring a finding of a safety defect, so it denied the petition.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the center, said he considers the two recalls a victory because the fuel pump relay is part of the power control module. The only remaining issue, he said, is whether all the vehicles with stalling problems were covered by the recalls.

"We're going to continue to monitor this," he said.