The independent watchdog Public Justice has supplemented efforts of the Center for Auto Safety to find out just why Chrysler has throw a cloak of secrecy around allegations of defective components widely used in models across the brand. The non-profit advocacy groups have good reason to suspect that Chrysler is keeping serious safety defects a dirty little secret. If their concerns turn out to be confirmed, Chrysler is putting lives at stake.
On August 21, 2014, the Center for Auto Safety sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) petitioning the agency to investigate Chrysler's central computer and electrical system it calls the TIPM, automotive-speak for "Totally Integrated Power Module." The Center for Auto Safety has received scores of complaints of bizarre behavior in the vehicles. Just in time for Halloween, it seems, these abnormalities include doors locking and unlocking on their own, lights flickering, windshield wipers self-activating, horns blaring without being pressed - and much more seriously -- the engine stalling in traffic, no-start problems, and brake malfunctions.
Meanwhile, Chrysler is mum. Actually, it is worse than that. Public Justice suggests that Chrysler has actively and aggressively suppressed evidence of safety defects that the public has a right to know. In certain court cases, Chrysler has demanded a protective order and required pleadings to be redacted, all to keep the allegations of certain defects secret. What does Chrysler have to hide? Public Justice has filed a petition to pierce that secrecy veil and require the court to open sealed records.
Numerous models and potentially millions of vehicles may be affected by TIPM defects. Complaints are flooding into the Center for Auto Safety involving Jeep Wranglers and Cherokees, Dodge Durangos, Dodge Grand Caravans, Dodge Ram trucks, as well as the Dodge Nitro and Journey. The model years go back as far as 2008. Some of these vehicles are out of warranty and there are reports that dealers have required owners to pay for safety-needed repairs. This just adds expense to insult and injury.
The Center for Auto Safety suggests that TIPM might instead be an acronym for "Totally Inept Power Module." That appears to be apt. But, the problems that consumers are reporting with the affected Chrysler vehicles are definitely not a joke.