Washington, D.C. – July 21, 2021 – The arm of the U.S. government that regulates vehicle safety is conducting an investigation to determine if Stellantis (NYSE:STLA) will need to recall 233,084 2016 Chrysler Town and Country and the 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan vans because of faulty sliding doors. The doors may allegedly become stuck, potentially trapping passengers in the vans in the event of an emergency.
The vans in question are equipped with power sliding rear doors that open at the push of a button inside the car or on the key fob. However, 426 drivers complained that they could not get the doors to open, even manually. This prompted the regulator – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – to open an investigation on July 9.
Many of the complaints described “consumers having to remove passengers in the rear of the vehicle through the front doors, the second sliding door (if it was operational), the windows, or the rear hatch of the vehicle.”
Stellantis, Dodge and Chrysler’s parent company, has been aware of the issue since 2016, when they issued a bulletin to dealers instructing mechanics to replace sliding door lock actuators on vans whose doors got stuck. The automaker discovered a defect in the lock actuators that would cause the doors to get stuck, sometimes emitting a loud buzzing noise when the car was locked or unlocked.
It is not clear how big the population affected by this issue was or how many cars were actually repaired at the time.
Many complaints NHTSA received expressed concern that in an emergency or crash, vehicle occupants could become trapped inside the vehicle. This represents a grave risk in the event of, for example, vehicle fires, where occupants need to leave a vehicle quickly. If someone is hurt, first responders may also have a hard time getting to the patient quickly if they cannot open doors from the outside.
Through the investigation, NHTSA is set to find out how often these rear door failures, confirm the risks that the complaints are referring to and potentially flesh out any additional dangers.
The investigation is currently in the “preliminary evaluation” stage, which NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) usually completes within four months. If the evaluation shows a potential safety defect, the office will conduct an engineering analysis to decide whether to initiate a safety recall. That stage usually takes around a year, as reported.
Will your vehicle be part of a recall?
Over 233,000 vans could be implicated in a future Fiat Chrysler recall or Dodge recall. To see if your van is one of them, bookmark MotorSafety’s free vehicle lookup tool and check back for open recalls in the future.