CHRYSLER RECALL FORCED BY INTERNET USERS
by David Hakala
Boardwatch Magazine, June issue
"Charlene Blake of Springfield, Virginia, started having problems with the
brakes of her 1992 Dodge Caravan when it was only a year old. "I'd push the
brake pedal to stop, and it would stay depressed, and my brake lights
would stay on," she recalled in an interview with Frances Cerra
Whittelsey of SHOP! Information Services (http://www.sis.org/docs/chrysler.
html). Her dealer installed a return spring under the brake pedal, but told
Blake nothing else was wrong. "Then, during Christmas week of 1994," said
Blake, "...I had to floor the pedal with both feet to stop. At that
point we stopped driving it."
The dealer told Blake it would cost $2100 to repair the brakes; the car was
just outside of warranty and had 33,000 miles on it. The car had 14,000
miles logged when Blake first complained about the brakes. Blake was
outraged, and wondered if other Chrysler minivan owners had similar brake
problems. She began putting fliers on minivan windshields. Then, at a
friend's suggestion, she posted a message in the "rec.autos.makers.chrysler"
newsgroup about her problems.
"Up to that point, it was like a super-sleuth thing trying to find people
who had the same problem, but then it just snowballed," she said in the SIS
interview. "I had about 60 people tell me about remarkably similar
problems." A pattern emerged of brake failures and denials of defects by
Chrysler and its dealers.
Brian Gluckman, owner of a 1992 Eagle Summit, has a Web site devoted to
Chrylser ABS Brake Problems at "http://www.glue.umd.edu/~Kaustin/Chrysler.
html." There you can read horror stories like this one from AOL member
"We have complained about the ABS brakes for sometime and the 2 or 3
dealers we took it to told us we were crazy. Until about 2 months ago when
the brakes totally failed and my wife almost got into an accident that the
dealer finally admitted that there is an ABS problem. They had the car for
3 weeks because there were no parts available. When we got the car back
the ABS would still not engage and a neighborhood mechanic could not find
any repairs were made consistent with what the dealer told us was a complete
replacement of the ABS system."
Attorney D. Brian Hufford read Blake's e-mail address in a newspaper
article. Hufford joined the Internet fact-finding effort, and ultimately
filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the 100 car owners who met
on the Internet.
On April 16, 1996, Chrsyler finally announced a safety recall of about
300,000 1990 to 1993 cars and minivans equipped with Bendix-9 and Bendix-10
Antilock Braking Systems (ABS). The lawsuit continues because, says
Hufford, "there are still fraud allegations" claiming that Chrysler long
knew of the defects and attempted to cover them up.
Hufford says the Internet is "an incredibly useful tool" for tracing the
extent of product liability problems. Susan Robins of Van Nuys, California,
another ABS victim, calls the Internet "the best tool for consumer action
to come along in recorded history."
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