Vehicle Owners Want Chrysler To Concede Rust Problems

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Owners of 2004 and 2005 Chrysler Pacificas say they have proof company knew about the expensive and extensive problem, but severely limited the group of owners who would get assistance from the company. (Published Thursday, Jan 23, 2014)

    A pattern of rust, rot and corrosion is showing up in a popular family car nationwide, much to the surprise of some owners who say they were never warned of the problem by the car maker.

    Owners of 2004 and 2005 Chrysler Pacificas say they have proof company knew about the expensive and extensive problem, but severely limited the group of owners who would get assistance from the company.

    Susan Deneen of Mokena recalls the day her suburban 'mom car' turned into a 'scary' car last fall: she was at her mechanic's for routine tire service.

    "He put the car up on the lift and got the shock of his day, I'm sure," Deneen told NBC5 Investigates. "The whole engine cradle was rusted and corroded. He could put his hand through it, it was so corroded. He told me, basically, if you were my wife you wouldn't be driving this home."

    "I really didn't want her driving it," said Greg Hoops, who owns an auto shop in Frankfort and is a certified Grand Master mechanic.

    Pictures that Hoops took that day show Deneen's entire subframe, or engine cradle, riddled with corrosion and rust. He says he has seen the same thing on another Pacifica, and it leaves him worried.

    "People here are driving time bombs, that don't even realize it," Hoops said.

    Miles away in Arlington Heights, Kurt Collins says he had the same unpleasant discovery, also at a routine mechanic visit.

    "When I went to pick it up the mechanic was just standing there, shaking his head saying 'bad news,'" Collins told NBC5 Investigates. "He starts telling me about the rotten sub-frame. It's corroded away, it's a dangerous situation, your engine can fall out."

    Both Pacifica owners describe an experience mirrored by hundreds nationwide. NBC5 Investigates reviewed more than 300 complaints submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and online driver forums. The majority say they were not warned of the problem by Chrysler, and scores say they were told 'no' when they asked Chrysler for help covering the roughly $2500 repair.

    But early in the process, the car maker did acknowledge the problem when it sent a warranty extension letter to owners of the 2004 and 2005 fleet. That offer was then rescinded, and changed to a service bulletin that severely narrowed the scope of that coverage. The carmaker instead said it would cover only Pacificas made in a roughly 6-week timeframe in 2004: from February 23 to March 31.

    Both Susan Deneen and Kurt Collins say they were told by Chrysler they were not eligible for any financial compensation for repairs because their cars fell outside the identified timeframe. Both say they appealed through numerous phone calls and letters, and ultimately received partial compensation.

    Deneen's cost was $733.

    "Which is still, you know-I could think of a lot of things I could do with that money, but we did what we had to do and got the car fixed," Deneen said.

    Collins' cost was about $750.

    "Which was a lot of money but it's a lot better than the $2500 I was being quoted," Collins said.

    Three months after Deneen's repair, NBC 5 Investigates asked Chrysler about an apparent disparity in financial assistance to drivers whose cars fell outside the company's extended warranty. Deneen says she was surprised to then receive a call from Chrysler, telling her she would be getting the $733 back.

    Chrysler tells NBC 5 the root cause of this problem was the engine cradle's coating thickness for vehicles produced in the timeframe it identified. The carmaker says approximately 7,000 vehicles were affected. Chrysler says it reviews customer complaints on a case-by-case basis, and is focused on the satisfaction of its customers.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received hundreds of complaints submitted by 2004 and 2005 Pacifica owners at its safercar.gov site. The agency says it has not detected a pattern of any safety defect in the 300-plus entries regarding engine corrosion submitted by Pacifica owners. New entries continue to be submitted.

    Does Chrysler plan any further action on the engine cradle corrosion problem? A spokesperson would only say to that: "Matters are investigated by our customer care team and resolved on a case by case basis. We listen to our customers and strive for fairness."

    The company's actions leave mechanic Hoops wanting more.

    "It's time they get on their A-game or get out of the business. Quit giving people faulty products, because good shops like mine, they're gonna catch it," Hoops said.

    Both Kurt Collins and Susan Deneen say they remain surprised the vehicle has not been recalled, and express concern for Pacifica owners who have not yet looked under their car.

    "I wondered why there's no recall. Why?" Deneen asked. "Is it going to take somebody at 65 miles per hour to have their engine collapse and have some catastrophic kind of crash?"

    "Companies are generally supposed to do things the right way," Collins said. "I understand the economics and everything, but at some point you gotta just say, you know, if we are in this for the long haul, we really have to step up."

    Both Susan Deneen and Kurt Collins say they were told by Chrysler they were not eligible for any financial compensation for repairs because their cars fell outside the identified timeframe. Both say they appealed through numerous phone calls and letters, and ultimately received partial compensation.

    Both say their complaints rest at the manufacturer level, not with their local dealerships.