FCA Launches AutoPark “Customer Satisfaction Notification” Campaigns, Why no Recall?

About three weeks ago, FCA sent out a Customer Satisfaction Notification, alerting dealers “to enable” the AutoPark feature on 192,400 Model Year 2014-2016 Dodge Durango with rotary-style shifters. This follows a May campaign to “enable” the feature on in 281,790 RAM 1500 Pickup, Dodge Durango, and Chrysler 300 vehicles – all from the 2017 model year – and also with rotary-style shifters. According to FCA’s dealer bulletin, the company planned to notify vehicle owners of the “service requirement” via mail and dealers are instructed to that all involved vehicles can be identified in the company Global Recall System.

FCA’s non-recall, required service campaigns, which are being quietly rolled out, are not garnering headlines like the recalls FCA launched in 2016 to correct the same type of issue in Jeeps and other FCA models with another type of electronic shifter known as the Monostable. It is also the latest instance of back-peddling for FCA, which tried to popularize e-shift controls previously found in high-end luxury vehicles and ended up in the middle of NHTSA investigations, lawsuits and a wave of derision. (see Fiat Chrysler’s Transmission Woes Continue)

FCA describes AutoPark “as an enhanced securement strategy which places the vehicle in “PARK” if the driver attempts to exit the vehicle before placing the rotary gear shift selector in the “PARK” position.”  FCA’s first foray into AutoPark started in 2013 model year Dodge Ram trucks – but only those with the Engine Start/Stop (ESS) technology – a limited-population vehicle. ESS technology automatically shuts off the engine when a driver stops for a traffic light, and then restarts the engine when it’s time to resume driving. 

In the last two years, however, FCA has been implementing AutoPark widely as a countermeasure for vehicles with e-shifters that the automaker introduced in 2013 (Monostable and rotary dial designs). (see The Persistence of Rollaway)

The Monostable is a T-style shifter, which requires the driver to depress a button on the shift lever and move it to the gear position. The lever then springs back to a centered/neutral position. The gear position is displayed on the lever and on the dashboard. The rotary dial e-shifter is located on the instrument panel, with the PRNDL displayed both above the control and in the Electronic Vehicle Information Center. Drivers must press the brake pedal to shift out of PARK or to shift from NEUTRAL into DRIVE or REVERSE.

Back in 2013, FCA thought it scored a design coup with the introduction of its new shifters. In press materials, FCA was sure that “Owners will appreciate an innovative rotary e-shift dial for trucks equipped with the new TorqueFlite 8-speed transmission that replaces both column and floor shifters. The exclusive rotary e-shift dial enables intuitive operation with a direct and confident feel, even with gloves on. The convenient, dash-mounted, easy-to-understand and operate system provides total control of the sophisticated eight-speed transmission and is Ram Truck’s innovative approach to electronic shifters, already used in Class 6-8 trucks.”

It turned out that FCA vehicle owners were not as appreciative as the automaker predicted. The “exclusive rotary e-shift” was neither intuitive nor easy-to-understand. Drivers complained that shifting the dial didn’t provide adequate feedback whether they were in the right gear, leading them to mistakenly exit the vehicle without it being locked in Park. The rotary dial shifter’s poor placement also resulted in drivers mistakenly turning the nearby radio volume dial. The FCA rotary e-shifter has been implicated in rollaway crashes, injuries, and at least one death.

Ditto for the Monostable shifter, which was criticized for giving drivers poor visual and tactile cues, also leading to driver confusion about the gear state. Vehicles with that shifter was linked to at least 266 crashes, 308 reports of property damage and 68 injuries, and at least one death

In August 2015, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a Preliminary Evaluation into the Monostable shifter design in 856,284 late model Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 vehicles, after more than 300 consumers complained to FCA and the agency about rollaways. Like the owners of rotary dial shifter vehicles, complaints suggested that drivers had misperceived the gear state. Some believed they had pushed the gear shift all the way forward to the Park position, but actually stopped at the Reverse position next to it.  

In April 2016, FCA recalled 811,586 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans from the 2012-14 model years, and MY 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees. The fix was a software re-flash to implement the AutoPark feature.  

In December 2016, NHTSA opened a Preliminary Evaluation investigation into 2013-2016 Dodge Ram 1500 and 2014-2016 Dodge Durangos with the rotary shifter. The investigation’s Opening Resume cited 43 rollaway complaints, with 25 crashes and nine injuries. The agency has publicly filed no other documents in the investigation in more than 18 months. It remains open.

In both cases, an unusual gear-shift interfaces misled drivers about the state of the transmission, resulting in rollaway crashes, with pretty serious consequences. So the Monostable-rollaway shifter problems get a recall, while the rotary-dial e-shifter problems get handled with a series of quiet customer satisfaction campaigns.

NHTSA, you cool with that?


More FCA Weirdness

The language FCA is using in notifying dealers about its rotary dial e-shifter vehicles is also strange. Both the May and July campaigns say that the AutoPark feature “may not be enabled” in certain vehicles within discrete manufacturing date ranges. This suggests that the feature was already in the vehicle, but just wasn’t turned on.

In the case of the 2017 Dodge Ram, Dodge Durango and Chrysler 300, AutoPark was introduced as a running change mid-year. (In its April 2017 cars buying guide issue, Consumer Reports pointedly removed the Chrysler 300’s “Recommended” status, because it lacked AutoPark – a safety feature the organization rightly noted should be in modern vehicles with e-shifters. FCA earned it back in July 2017, after installing it.) So it’s possible that it was not enabled in some production models before they hit the showroom.

But it is far more likely that FCA is installing AutoPark in those vehicles for the first time. According to Consumer Reports, the feature was added to those three 2017 models on April 1, 2017. The customer satisfaction notice notes that the build dates for the vehicles with an AutoPark feature that “may not be enabled,” are April 12, 2016 through April 01, 2017.

Likewise, there is no evidence that AutoPark was ever implemented in a 2014-2106 Dodge Durango. This feature is not mentioned in the service literature nor owner’s manuals. We think it’s safe to say that FCA can drop the word “may.”

And, we suppose that one could use the term “enabled” to mean adding a software algorithm based on data points already being monitored in the vehicle. But we are still trying to figure out why one bad shifter gets the countermeasure in a recall and another gets the same fix for the same kind of safety defect in a second-tier effort.  


Fiat Chrysler’s Transmission Woes Continue

Last Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a new probe into rollaway complaints from drivers of late-model Dodge Durango SUVs and Ram 1500 trucks equipped with Fiat Chrysler’s new rotary dial shifter. It follows on the heels on a rollaway investigation into FCA vehicles with a Monostable shifter, which concluded in June with a recall, and a high-profile death. Actor Anton Yelchin, famous for his portrayal of Pavel Chekov in Star Trek movies, died when when he was pinned by his 2015 Jeep Cherokee in the driveway of his home.

So far, the agency has done little in this new probe but collect some 43 complaints from owners who reported that their vehicle rolled after they had moved the rotary dial to Park and exited the vehicle, racking up 25 crashes and nine injuries. The vast majority alleged that the vehicle rolled away, even though the shifter indicated that it was in the park position. Sometimes the engine was still running; sometimes it was off.

Unaccounted for the in that list is a Pennsylvania man who died after being pinned by his 2016 Ram 1500 with the rotary dial shifter. Attorneys David Kwass and Robert J. Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, PC, gave FCA notice of this fatality at least two months ago. In late September, FCA inspected the vehicle.

In launching its investigation, NHTSA, (People Blaming People ™), couldn’t resist delivering this alarming news without giving its driver-error machine a crank or two. The Opening Resume chides: “Notably none of the reports indicate that the parking brake was engaged at the time of the roll-away incident. Subject vehicle owners, and in fact all drivers, should always apply the parking brake to prevent vehicle roll-away.”

But, enough about you bad drivers. These shift-by-wire transmissions with new interfaces have been a big headache for FCA, even though the automaker was all jazzed in 2011 about how awesome electronic shift controls were going to be:

“High efforts in shifting also have been eliminated with gear selection controlled by a shift-by-wire system. The position selected by the driver (P, R, N, D) is transmitted electronically with no mechanical linkage from the shifter to the outside of the transmission. Elimination of this linkage removes any shift effort from the driver’s gear selection. Shift-by-wire also allows improved calibration and smoothness of garage and parking lot shifts.”

In reality, the transition to this transition has been less than smooth. And the reported complaints indicate that human error may only be part of the problem. (It is particularly true that the Monostable shifters suffered from a poor design – the driver changing gears must depress a button on the shift lever and move it to the gear position, then the lever springs back to a centered/neutral position. The gear is displayed on the lever and on the dashboard. NHTSA found that the Monostable shifter was “not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”

Regardless of the way the driver executes a shift in the Dodge Ram and Jeep Grand Cherokee – either by the Monostable lever or the rotary dial – the vehicles share the same transmission and electronics that do not physically move the gearshift into a detent. They send a gear request from the driver via the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus to the Transmission Control Module which then makes the requested shift. In the last three years, these transmissions – in the Dodge and Jeep vehicles, and used by other manufacturers – have been the subject of recalls, investigations and technical service bulletins.

For example, twice the last three years Chrysler recalled Ram trucks for mechanical defects in the transmission, including an April 2014 campaign for “certain model year 2014 Ram 1500 4×4 vehicles manufactured January 24, 2014, through February 5, 2014. In the affected vehicles, the transmission case may have been improperly machined which can result in the park pawl not properly engaging when the transmission is in the 'Park' position.”

The complaints indicate the possibility of both electronic and mechanical defects. Reports of rollaways that occurred after the transmission was placed in Park and vehicle engine was shut off are troubling because the Chrysler design prevents shutdown unless it has a signal that the vehicle is in Park. They suggest the potential for a mechanical defect, like the recall above, and/or an electronic issue in which there is an errant signal that the transmission is in Park or Park is in fact engaged but it disengages inadvertently via an electronic signal. 

The situation as The Safety Record sees it is this: FCA introduced new shifter styles that worked differently, felt different to the driver, and in the case of the rotary dial, was placed in a new location, right next to the HVAC controls.

Human factors research since the beginning of time shows that when interfaces are changed, human error will increase. The smart automaker anticipates this well-known phenomenon and designs countermeasures to address it. The careless automaker puts the sh-t out there without all that fuss, and waits to get caught. Added to the mix are bad electronics and some manufacturing problems, but as long as consumers can be accused, why bother the engineers?

Dial R for Rollaway

Chrysler began installing the dial-configured shifter in the Dodge Ram in 2013, and added it to other models, such as the Chrysler 200 and Chrysler 300. The rotary shifter is located on the instrument panel with the PRNDL displayed both above the shifter control and in the Electronic Vehicle Information Center. Drivers must press the brake pedal to shift out of PARK or to shift from NEUTRAL into DRIVE or REVERSE.

Some Dodge enthusiasts on Ram message board have been less than enthusiastic about this alleged advance in transmission technology:

“My father got a 2014 Durango also with the rotary shifter. We like that it takes up less space on the console. Less space equals more storage or bigger cupholders. What he specifically does not like is the dial also looks like the large fan control dial. Even though there is enough space between them, he once in awhile finds himself shifting with the HVAC or turning up the heat on the console. Yeah, he is getting up there in years but is still very much with it. The controls do look similar.”

“I think it sucks myself…. You shouldn't have to "look" for the dam shifter before throwing it into reverse or drive. I am getting tired of turning the radio volume up or down, thinking I have hold of the stupid little shifter dial. Not very easy to find the dinky little down shift buttons on the wheel either when you are pulling a trailer and coming to a down grade. Again, if you need to "look" for the shift buttons it is dangerous because you are not looking at the road.”

A review of Vehicle Owner’s Questionnaires reported to NHTSA identified nearly 100 reports specifically focused on transmission problems in a variety of Chrysler vehicles with a rotary dial shifter:. Some document human factors issues, in which driver reported thinking that they had placed the transmission in Park, when they had actually only achieved the Reverse position:

“I have had 2 instances with the rotary shift on this vehicle. In both cases I had thought the vehicle was in park when it was actually in reverse. When the first incident happened I was able to safely stop the vehicle without incident. However, when the second incident happened I had exited the vehicle with my wife as a passenger. Neither of us was able to stop it and continued backwards and struck a parked vehicle that was parked. This caused  significant damage to both vehicles. Thankfully, no one was injured and now I am extremely careful when putting this vehicle into the park mode. I checked the push button ignition assuming that in an emergency I could stop the engine but found this would not work. If the circumstances were a bit different the outcome could have been very bad. The incident happened at a car dealer’s lot with my vehicle backing and striking on of the cars on their lot.”


Others suggest an electronic problem, with the vehicle shifting on its own:

"Bought a brand new 2015 Dodge Ram 1500, the first week I had an issue with one of the windows not going back up, about a month later I was driving and the new knob shifter, went into neutral by itself while I was driving. Meant to take it in, but had been so busy with work, that I was going to wait until the first oil change. I noted those two issues on an email review/survey that dodge hounded me to fill out. Exactly two months after owning the truck on July 28th, the same day I made my second payment, I was at the garage at work, left the truck on and put it in park, got out of the car, closed the door and as I was getting ready to go around the truck to go inside my job, the car started to back out by itself, I tried getting back into the truck to stop it but unfortunately, i failed, the truck almost ran me over. Thankfully a cement beam stopped this from happening.”


Still others report that the vehicle rolled with the dial still indicating the vehicle was in the Park position – which could be an electronic or mechanical defect:

"The contact owns a 2015 Ram 1500. After the vehicle was placed in Park and the contact exited, it began to roll back. The vehicle was found in a pond. A police report was filed. The vehicle was towed out of the pond to a tow yard. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the vehicle was still registered in park. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 20,000."


And several drivers complained that while shifting their dial from Park to Drive (or Reverse to Drive) while also taking their foot off of the brake, the ‘D’ on the dial starts flashing, and the vehicle remains in neutral.

The Monostable Blues

The Safety Record wrote about the Monostable shifter defect in February, Chrysler’s Shifty Shifters and the Wacky World of Defects, just after NHTSA upgraded its investigation from a Preliminary Evaluation to an Engineering Analysis and just before Chrysler issued a recall for 811,000 2012-2014 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles.  The recall identified the defect as a transmission that “may not adequately warn the driver when driver's door is opened and the vehicle is not in PARK, allowing them to exit the vehicle while the vehicle is still in gear.” FCA tried its best to pin the blame on its customers, saying that it would begin notifying vehicle owners about scheduling software repairs aimed at preventing incidents caused by the “misuse” of their confusing gearshift mechanism. It later cited “driver inattention,” as a factor.

In June, NHTSA closed its Engineering Analysis, five days after Yelchin’s death was reported.

But the saga did not end there. The fix was new software that included an “Auto Park” feature which would engage if the vehicle is not in park and the driver presses the ignition switch to turn the vehicle off. It will also engage if the vehicle is not in park and the driver exits the vehicle while it is running.

In other words, instead of using the driver as its countermeasure, FCA could have implemented a failsafe from the get-go that would work regardless of the engine status.

FCA revised its Part 573 Notice of Defect and Noncompliance seven times – most recently on November 4. The automaker conceded that its recall fix was a failure:

“FCA US has determined that the existing strategies built into these vehicles to deter drivers from exiting the vehicle after failing to put the transmission into PARK have not stopped some from doing so. Drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the PARK position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged. FCA US has therefore determined that the absence of an additional mechanism to mitigate the effects of driver error in failing to shift the monostable gear selector into PARK prior to exiting the vehicle constitutes a defect presenting a risk to motor vehicle safety.”


Nonetheless, notice the language: Customers! You are not doing it right!

However, in a Safety Technical Advisory FCA let slip that it actually may have been their techs who were not doing it right: “Some of the involved vehicles that had safety recall S27 performed may not have had all four involved modules updated with new or correct software. Due to this unfortunate situation, the recall status for this small group of vehicles will be returned to “Open” status for this recall in the Global Recall System.”

In fact, FCA has known about at least one electronic problem causing rollaways since at least October 2015, when it issued a Technical Service Bulletin for the 2015 Grand Cherokee and Durango with the Monostable configuration. It addresses “shift enhancement;” however, if one keeps reading, one finds the bulletin actually addresses “erroneous” malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) illumination and several possible diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) stored within the transmission control module that are related to rollaway. In other words, the electronics mistakenly disengage the parking pawl, when the transmission indicates that the vehicle is in Park. No mention of that in the NHTSA investigation…

Who’s doing it wrong now, FCA, huh?

As we move into 2017 and the dawn of A Golden Era in which all driver errors are erased by our Robot Car Overlords, The Safety Record will continue to ruminate on how the agency can use the occasion of investigating an automaker that cannot get park-by-wire right, to criticize the poor schmucks stuck with a badly designed and poorly executed transmission that rolls away. 

While You Were Out …

We’re all familiar with the Friday afternoon news dump – release something controversial at close of business on the last day of the week. Don’t leave reporters much time for digging or tracking down interview subjects, and hope everyone is too busy livin’ for the weekend to pay attention. The holiday news dump is a variation on this theme and last week, as Americans were preparing to grill hotdogs and wave sparklers, some big news broke out: Graco added 1.9 million infant carriers to an earlier recall of 4.2 million safety seats for harness buckles that were nearly impossible to unlatch, making it the largest child seat recall in U.S. history. NHTSA released some after-the-fact testing and another Special Order related to a dubious customer satisfaction campaign related to rear-impact Jeep fires. GM found yet more vehicles with a bum ignition switch that needed to be recalled and laid out its compensation protocol for past victims of its malfeasance. Head below for the details:

Graco Harness Buckle Recall

Five months after Jennifer Timian of the NHTSA’s Recall Management Division sent Graco a blistering recall acknowledgement letter reaming out the manufacturer for minimizing the safety hazard of harness buckles that do not unlatch, Graco has surrendered. It added 1.9 million infant carriers to an earlier recall of about 4 million convertible and booster seats with a harness buckle that was so difficult to unlatch, that consumers reported the need to cut their children out of the seat.

Graco’s Feb. 7 Part 573 Notice of Defect and Noncompliance did a 180 in tone and substance from its original recall notice in February, in which the child safety seat-maker made it clear that it would rather eat ground glass than concede that harness buckles that become stuck by design or contamination could present a safety hazard in an emergency:

While Graco and NHTSA have not reached an accord over the nature or severity of this  issue, Graco in an abundance of caution has agreed to submit this 573 report and engage in a recall for the Subject Child Restraints.

It reluctantly recalled about 4 million convertible and booster seats, including Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride w/Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite, and Argos 70 models. But, Graco declined to recall an additional 1.8 million rear facing infant seats. 


This time, Graco’s phrasing was more careful. While the word “defect” was never whispered, Graco’s memory of the first recall was all soft-focus:

Based on its discussion with NHTSA, Graco determined that a safety recall was warranted with regard to forward-facing toddler and harnessed booster car seats due to the probability that, and in addition to the ergonomic issues noted above, the physical orientation and use patterns of those seats with older children increased the potential for foreign material to interfere with the buckle mechanism over time. This in turn could make extraction of the child occupant more difficult in an emergency situation, thereby increasing the risk of injury.

This is what is alleged to have happened to Leiana Marie Ramirez, who died in a vehicle fire three days before her second birthday, strapped in a Graco Nautilus child safety seat. Her mother  Samika Ramirez was southbound on Arroyo Seco Parkway in South Pasadena, when Samika pulled her Nissan Altima to the side of the divided highway, suspecting that she had a flat tire. Another driver, who hadn’t noticed the stopped Altima, struck it in the rear, touching off a fire. According to the police reports, Samika tried to unbuckle her daughter, but could not release the harness. The flames engulfing her car were too intense, and onlookers pulled Samika Ramirez out of the car. The Ramirez family filed a civil lawsuit against Graco in October 2012, as NHTSA was opening an investigation into the problem. At the time of the recall, Graco had not reported this lawsuit to NHTSA, as it is required to do, under the Early Warning Reporting regulations.

Graco really had no choice but to widen the recall. NHTSA was threatening to go to an Initial Determination if Graco didn’t recall the infant carriers as well. And when the agency is ready to go to the mat, a manufacturer can count on lots of negative news stories about its products and its corporate behavior. That’s perhaps, more costly to the bottom line than a recall.

Chrysler Jeep Wrangler Fires

In other holiday news, the agency has issued a Special Order to Chrysler demanding to know when in the heck it was going to initiate the trailer hitch remedy it grudgingly agreed to implement more than a year ago after former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former NHTSA administrator David Strickland cut a deal with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to avoid a legal struggle. One year after Chrysler filed its Part 573, not one Jeep has been remedied, and at the rate Chrysler is going, it will take it nearly five years to implement it. The agency has taken umbrage:

For many owners, a recall remedy deferred by parts availability easily becomes a defect remedy denied. Moreover, additional delays in implementing this recall will inure to Chrysler’s benefit at the expense of vehicle owner safety. Although NHTSA acknowledges that recall campaigns may have low completion rates for any number of reasons, the agency has no intention of allowing Chrysler, or any other manufacturer, to delay recall completion to the detriment of safety.

Our readers may recall that NHTSA and Chrysler were on a collision course last spring over the unfortunate tendency of older Jeeps with behind-the-axle, rear-mounted fuel tanks to burst into flames when struck from the rear – especially at higher speeds. The Center for Auto Safety had been petitioning NHTSA for a Jeep recall since November 2009, when it formally requested that the agency open an investigation into fuel-fed fires in Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 1992-2008 model years. The advocacy group alleged that the plastic fuel tank’s placement and the lack of adequate shielding – similar in design to the infamous Ford Pinto – made it more vulnerable to rupture or leakage from rear-impacts and in rollovers.

In August 2010, the agency granted the CAS petition and opened a Preliminary Evaluation. In June 2012, ODI bumped up the investigation to an Engineering Analysis Chrysler was pretty adamant that it didn’t see a problem here, and NHTSA was equally insistent that something be done. NHTSA formally requested that Chrysler conduct a recall, and with the deadline for a formal reply looming, LaHood, Marchionne, and Strickland met in Chicago and came to a compromise.

Chrysler agreed to outfit 1.5 million, 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and the 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs with trailer hitches, installed on vehicles not already so equipped “provided the condition of the vehicle can support proper installation.” Chrysler agreed to inspect vehicles with aftermarket and Chrysler-designed tow hitches “to assess whether the hitch and surrounding areas show evidence of sharp edges or other puncture risks. For those vehicles with after-market hitches, Chrysler will replace it with a Chrysler tow hitch “provided the condition of the vehicle can support proper installation.” In closing the Engineering Analysis, the agency said that it “had no reservations” about the trailer hitch “fix.”  Chrysler described it in its Defect and Non-Compliance Notice as “an incremental improvement” to safety in low-speed rear impact crashes.

These Special Orders, (coming so regularly now, we don’t know if they are that special any more.) are signs that NHTSA is trying mightily to acquire a spine. But this one, in particular, shows why the agency has a long way still to go.

After the Secretary of Transportation cuts the deal, ODI questions the effectiveness of the remedy in a meeting with Chrysler.

The automaker tries to allay these concerns by providing “drawings of the hitches and a limited set of test data.” When ODI questions the sufficiency of those offerings, Chrysler says it won’t do anything else.

NHTSA is then forced to conduct its own tests. And if a report about those crash tests can be believed — eight rear impact crash reconstruction tests conducted from August 2013 to January – at speeds of up to 40 mph, all is well.

When NHTSA shares it glad tidings about the tests with Chrysler, NHTSA finds out that Chrysler had waited until December 2013, to select a hitch supplier and actually placed an order in late January 2014. The first run of hitches wasn’t actually produced until May 14, and Chrysler wouldn’t have all its parts stockpiled until next month.

Basically, Chrysler’s actions might be construed as a chronic middle finger to ODI.  And the Special Order? Pretty wimpy compared to some of the zingers coming out of the Chief Counsel’s office these days.

CAS, which has tirelessly championed this issue, rightly points out that its consumers who are getting the shaft. The tests, while nice, fall short of those the agency did the Ford Pinto of the 1970s, and short of today’s FMVSS 301 fuel tank integrity test, which requires a 50-mph 30 percent offset from a 3015 pound moving barrier with low front end — more severe than the ones NHTSA for the Chrysler tow-hitch “fix.”

In the meantime, CAS reports, four people have died and two have been seriously injured in rear-impact Jeep collisions since Chrysler announced its remedy last June.

Ignition Switch Nightmare Continues

GM celebrated the holiday week, as they do every week since Marietta, Georgia attorney Lance Cooper broke the news that General Motors knew it had a defective ignition switch in the 2005-2007 Cobalt and other models for at least a decade, by announcing an expanded recall. Chrysler also announced that it was adding 696,000 2007-2009 Chrysler Town & Country minivans and Dodge Journey SUVs to its 2011 ignition-switch recall of 196,000 Journeys, Caravans and Town & Country vehicles due to ignition keys that could slip from the “run” to “accessory” position, shutting down the engine, and the power steering and airbags with it.

On Monday of the holiday week, the GM recall ballooned to 8.4 million vehicles globally. This compelled Time journalists, bored with the sheer repetition of ignition recall, after ignition recall, after Congressional hearing, after document dump, after revelation that yet another GM insider warned them about this defect years ago, are forced to come up with ridiculous fun facts about the fiasco, such as: “The recalled vehicles could wrap around the Earth more than four times and The longest time between recalls hasn’t even been longer than the World Cup. Funny stuff! (Remember when Time was relevant?)

GM also announced its compensation plan for owners of ten Chevrolet, Daewoo, Open/Vauxhall, Pontiac and Saturn vehicles with a death or injury claim for a crash that occurred before December 2014. One key case killer: airbag or seat belt pre-tensioner deployment. Any evidence of either in a crash and the claim is ineligible. What technical support does GM have for drawing its bright line in that particular place? Kenneth R. Feinberg, Administrator of the GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility, couldn’t answer that question at his holiday week presser.