If you’ve been
waiting to hear from Chrysler on when it will replace the rear door latch on your minivan, be patient. It’ll be September at the earliest.
The automaker said Friday that it is not dragging its feet in carrying out the $115 million voluntary program it announced in March. But it said it guessed wrong on how quickly it could get parts for as many as half the 4.6 million minivans it produced between the 1984 and 1995 model years.
Rear doors flying open in crashes have led to at least 32 deaths of passengers thrown out of Chrysler minivans, Kathy DeMeter, director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigations, said Friday.
NHTSA’s investigation into the safety of the rear door latches is continuing, and it wants Chrysler to explain what’s taking so long.
DeMeter said the agency is “very concerned that slippage has occurred in the testing dates for the replacement latches.”
She said NHTSA isn’t pushing Chrysler to speed things up - yet.
“We’ll have to see what they say on July 14,” the date by which Chrysler must respond to NHTSA’s latest questions about the new latches and delays in getting the replacement program started.
Chrysler decided to offer the free hatch replacement to staunch bad publicity about its best-selling vehicles. The 1996 models, the first major redesigned versions of the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country vans, are now on sale.
Though it could face a recall for the hatch releases on the older vans because the government investigation is still open, Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau said such an action is unlikely.
“There never was an agreement with NHTSA on timing,” he said Friday. “June 12 was our best guess early on.”
Chrysler told NHTSA last month that minivan owners will be contacted beginning Sept. 4 to make appointments at dealerships for the free replacement latch.