Magana Cathcart & McCarthy

Chrysler Asks for “Death Wobble” Dismissal

Chrysler

2014 may go down as the year of vehicle recalls, with what seems like nearly every automaker—from Ford and GM to Honda and Toyota to BMW—acknowledging defects in various aspects of their automobiles. One recall involving airbags produced by the Japanese supplier Takata involves 7.8 million cars and trucks—and counting.

In the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Chrysler answered a class-action lawsuit concerning the “death wobble” in its Dodge Ram trucks, with little empathy. The company argued that all 11 complaints should be dismissed outright, stating “plaintiffs’ express warranty claims are premised on the mistaken notion that Chrysler Group promised that their vehicles were free from defects.”

Dodge Ram steering problems have allegedly caused at least one death.

Steering problems experienced by 2008-2012 Dodge Ram owners allegedly make the trucks unstable and unsafe to drive when the so-called “death wobble” occurs. The wobble is said to have a significant effect on a driver’s ability to control the vehicle, especially at higher speeds. At least one death is allegedly the result of the steering problem.

The issue is allegedly caused by faulty tie-rod ball studs. The plaintiffs’ complaint maintains that the studs fracture, loosening the tie-rod that is an integral part of the Chrysler steering system. When a truck goes over a bump or a groove in the road, a loose tie-rod can cause excessive shimmy that in turn can cause the truck’s frontend to shake and vibrate. The driver is then in danger of losing control, and may not be able to bring the truck to a complete stop.

Chrysler recalled trucks, but claims it’s ok for components to fail.

Chrysler launched a defective steering-system tie-rods recall for 2008-2012 Dodge Ram trucks, which covers the replacement and/or repair of the tie-rod studs and related systems regardless of the vehicle’s warranty status. The recall also provides for reimbursement if owners arranged for a repair on their own.

While the trucks have been recalled for repair, in its rebuttal to the plaintiffs’ complaint, Chrysler argues, “The [warranty] does nothing other than extend Chrysler Group’s obligation to pay the cost of all parts and labor needed to repair any item during the warranty’s limits. Indeed, courts recognize that a promise to repair actually acts as a warning that the product at issue may fail.”

We’ll see if the death wobble is, in fact, a death knell for this argument.

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