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Chrysler Agrees To Replace Latches On 1984-94 Minivans


Chrysler Corp. said Monday it will replace the rear lift-gate latches on all of the automaker’s 1984-94 minivans, ending an 18-month investigation into whether the rear lift gates open on impact.

The action, less severe than a formal recall, still amounts to a potentially enormous repair operation for the No. 3 automaker, which pioneered the market for the minivan, one of the most popular vehicles on the road. Four million Chrysler minivans are affected by the announcement.

Chrysler insists the latches are safe. But it will notify owners of all Dodge Caravans, Plymouth Voyagers and Chrysler Town & Country minivans built between 1984 and 1994 that the latches can be replaced free of charge, the automaker said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating whether the rear lift gates of the 4 million Chrysler minivans tend to unlatch in crashes, allowing unbelted passengers to be ejected. The agency has found that at least 28 people have died in such accidents.

Chrysler’s action is different than a recall, when a company acknowledges a potential safety defect and announces specific repair plans.

The automaker said it expects NHTSA to close its investigation after monitoring how the automaker carries out its service action.

“We’re doing this because the growing awareness surrounding this issue is causing concern among our owners,” said Arthur C. Liebler, Chrysler vice president of marketing and communication. “This is something we do not want and cannot have.”

The minivan’s critics have said a voluntary service program would mean many of the minivans would go unfixed because the standards for enforcing it would be lower.

NHTSA administrator Dr. Ricardo Martinez released a statement commending Chrysler’s action.

“This action will improve the safety of these vehicles at no cost to owners, and alleviate the concerns that have been raised regarding the performance of the latches in crashes,” the statement said.

It will take several months to produce enough latches for all the minivans, but Chrysler expects to complete the service action in a year, Liebler said.

Chrysler is installing the stronger latches it began using in its 1995 models on 1990-94 models, he said. A modified latch will be installed on 194-89 minivans.

Chrysler plans to begin notifying owners of the minivans by the end of the week. Owners will receive a second notice as soon as the latches arrive at dealerships.


Getting it fixed Local Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth dealers say Chrysler Corp. has not told them how to handle service requests related to faulty minivan latches. However, Bill Davis of Ponderosa Motors in Coeur d’Alene suggests scheduling appointments ahead of time to replace the latches. Here are phone numbers for local dealers: Spokane Chrysler Plymouth, 6818 E. Sprague: (509) 926-1501. Dishman Dodge, 7700 E. Sprague: (509) 927-2555. Ponderosa Motors, 1902 4th, Coeur d’Alene: (208) 667-9567.

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