Safety group demands answers about auto defect

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Washington, D.C. - Imagine that you’re driving down the road when suddenly you lose control of your vehicle. The horn is blaring, the windshield wipers are running and the windows are rolling up and down on their own. Dozens of Chrysler drivers say this has happened to them.

The Center for Auto Safety says it has heard nearly 100 similar complaints of electrical systems acting up in mostly Dodge Durangos and Jeep Cherokees. The group recently filed a petition asking federal highway safety regulators to investigate the problem.

Jeff Marlow says he was driving a new 2009 Dodge Journey when the car began acting possessed.

"The windows would go down by themselves, radio, windshield wipers, and blower motor would come on without the key fob in the ignition. It would not start either,” he said in an e-mail. 

“It was towed in a back of a rollback wrecker to the dealer just to have them say they could not reproduce the issue.”

Marlow says he took the car to the dealership, but the staff was stumped.

It wasn’t until Marlow brought the car in for the 14th time that the dealer bought the car back, still unsure what was causing the problems. 

The car was deemed a lemon.

Marlow stuck with Dodge and bought a new Durango, but he says the strange problems he had been facing for two years continued with the new SUV.

Unlike the dealership, the Center for Auto Safety says it knows what the problem is.

The Totally Integrated Power Module, or TIPM, is flawed in millions of Chrysler vehicles, according to the group.

The TIPM flaw causes vehicles to stall, accelerate sporadically and cause issues with other functions like the horn, wipers and blinkers.

“It also can disable the air bag, it can cause the vehicle to stall out and not restart,” said Center for Auto Safety executive director Clarence Ditlow.  “Owners are really riding at risk.”
The center says the problems started with cars in the 2007 model year.

A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the agency has received the petition to investigate Chryslers and is reviewing the merits.

“Is it a safety defect? We believe the answer is yes and at the very least they should do a safety investigation,” said Ditlow.

Chrysler says it’s investigating the complaints and that its vehicles meet or exceed safety standards.