Chrysler ABS Brake Recall and Buy Back
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Chrysler ABS Brake Recall and Buy Back

On April 15, 1996, Chrysler Corporation, facing a barrage of consumer complaints, a government investigation and a class action lawsuit, agreed to fix 275,000 1991-93 minivans [Caravan C-V, Dodge Caravan, Grand Voyager, and Town and Country], 67,000 Chrysler New Yorkers, Imperials and Dynasties, and 4,000 1991-92 Earle Premier and Dodge Monacos with Bendix ABS brakes manufactured by AlliedSignal.

The Bendix 10 ABS system utilizes a hydraulic pump that is erratic and results in reduced braking power assistance that causes a wide range of "unusual" responses under different braking conditions.

As part of its agreement, Chrysler will repair, free of charge, defective ABS brakes, will extend the warranty to 100,000 miles on ABS brake parts, and will "buy back" from owners the cost of previous brake repairs. The terms of the "reimbursement" program are still being negotiated.

The agreement to pay owners for money they wasted in repairing a defective vehicle is a a key provision of the class action lawsuit Chrysler has been defending and has precedence in the 1994 buy back of 33,000 minivans by Nissan at an estimated cost of $200,000,000. 1987-90 Nissan minivans had been the subject of three recalls because of engine failures and fires before The Alexander Law Firm filed suit in April 1993.

On February 2, 1994, one week before the hearing on plaintiff's motion to certify a national class action, Nissan negotiated a settlement of the class action, stipulated to the certification of a national class, and resolved a federal investigation by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration by voluntarily agreeing to the first known buy back of defective vehicles, in this case 33,000 vans at fair market value [$5,000 to $7,000]. For additional details see Johnson v.Nissan Motor Company Inc., U.S.A., Santa Clara County Superior Court No. 730558. Wall Street Journal, February 4, 1994, page A2. San Jose Mercury, C1, San Francisco Chronicle, A5.

In November, 1995 Alexander, Rapazzini & Graham of San Jose, California and Berman, Devallerio, Pease & Tabacco of San Francisco filed Villarreal v. Chrysler. Santa Clara CV 753706 arising from the sale or lease of thousands of vehicles manufactured by Chrysler Corporation from 1990 through 1995 which are equipped with defective anti-lock brake systems which can cause the brakes to unpredictably fail when the brake pedal is depressed. These defective ABS systems were manufactured by the Bendix division of the AlliedSignal Corporation, and are commonly known as the "Bendix 10 ABS."

All of the Chrysler vehicles which contain these defective ABS systems were sold or leased with express and implied warranties. These warranties assured consumers that these Chrysler vehicles were free from defects and were properly equipped for the use for which they were intended. In violation of these warranties, the Chrysler vehicles were equipped with defective ABS systems that were prone to failure. By equipping its vehicles with the defective Bendix 10 ABS systems, Chrysler breached its express and implied warranties.

Defendant Chrysler has been aware of the serious problems with its Bendix 10 ABS system for years, and has known of the possible injuries and deaths that could result from ABS brake failure. Since early 1990, and perhaps even earlier, Chrysler began to receive numerous complaints and requests for brake repairs by consumers. Indeed, internal Chrysler memorandum, written by Chrysler's senior staff supervisor Rick Cortright, state that Chrysler has seen an increase in consumer calls about the Bendix 10 system.

Notwithstanding notice of the defect, Chrysler, until April 15, 1996, has denied any obligation to its customers in all of its public statements and in its defense of this class action. Rather than honor its warranties, Chrysler has sought to forestall complaints arising from Bendix 10 ABS brakes through a deliberate and active public relations campaign of misrepresentations.

Rather than admitting to the defects in these vehicles, and seeking to repair them, Chrysler has repeatedly denied that the Bendix 10 ABS systems are prone to failure and has affirmatively misled its consumers with respect to the safety of its vehicles. Fortunately that has now changed.

As a result of Chrysler's previous failure to respond to consumer complaints, many consumers complained to various consumer or governmental groups, including the Center for Auto Safety ("CAS") and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA"). Virtually thousands of such complaints have been received by NHTSA, leading to its ongoing investigation into the ABS systems in various minivan and other car models manufactured by Chrysler.

The class action lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County is not a personal injury case. Plaintiffs and members of the Class brought this action for equitable relief to require Chrysler, at its expense, to warn all California consumers of the defects in its ABS systems and to require Chrysler, at its expense, to retrofit all vehicles with ABS in California before the brake systems fail and injure more people. Under Chrysler's announced action, some of the damage done by Chrysler will be corrected, but not completely.

Through this class action lawsuit, Plaintiffs, and members of the Class, have demanded that Chrysler be compelled to recall and retrofit all vehicles manufactured between 1990 and 1995 which contained Bendix 10 ABS system, be ordered to replace the existing Bendix 10 ABS systems with a non-defective braking system and pay restitution of all costs incurred by Plaintiffs in connection with the replacement or repair of the Bendix 10 ABS systems installed in their vehicles. The class action also seeks economic damages for the diminution in value of Chrysler vehicles and punitive damages to ensure that Chrysler never again callously disregards the safety of its customers and the public.

The complaint is based on Chrysler's breach of its written warranty and the implied warranty provisions of California's Uniform Commercial Code, breach of the implied warranty and fitness provisions of California's Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, unfair and fraudulent business practices under California Business and Professions Code ยงยง17200 et seq., negligent misrepresentation, and equitable relief.

Because Chrysler's announcement extends only to certain 1991 to 1993 models years and does not include all relief demanded by the class, the class action will continue to assure all owners full and complete restitution and repairs.

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