Fiat Chrysler has been hit with another proposed class action centered on an alleged front axle and damping system defect found in certain Jeep models that can cause the vehicles’ steering components to shake uncontrollably.
According to the 42-page suit, certain 2018-2020 Jeep Wrangler and 2020 Jeep Gladiator models are affected by what’s come to be known as the “death wobble,” which manifests when a vehicle’s steering wheel begins to violently shake side to side after encountering “common and expected road variations” while driving at highway speeds. The plaintiff asserts that the “death wobble” issue found in certain Jeep Wranglers and Gladiators makes the cars unsafe to operate in that a driver’s ability to steer and control the vehicle is impaired.
The complaint says the “death wobble” defect stems from the inability of the solid front axle in affected Jeep models to absorb natural vibrations and bumps caused by driving. Per the lawsuit, increased vibrations of a solid front axle can cause steering components to prematurely loosen or become damaged. The issue typically manifests at speeds over 45 mph, the case says.
According to the suit, defendant FCA US has known of the “death wobble” problem since at least 2010 yet continues to assert that it is not a safety issue and can manifest in any vehicle model equipped with a solid front axle. Fiat Chrysler’s persistent denial of the issue “strategically allows” the automaker to string out its failed repair efforts until a vehicle’s warranty expires “and the problem rests exclusively with the owner,” the lawsuit alleges. Per the suit, FCA has over the last decade put forth ineffective “temporary remedies” in order to conceal the issue from drivers.
“FCA does so knowing these temporary remedies have never rectified the ‘Death Wobble’ in prior Jeep Wrangler models,” the case says, noting that FCA redesigned portions of the Wrangler’s steering column in 2018 but was still unable to address the “death wobble” issue.
Though FCA circulated a notification to its captive dealer network around June 2019 in which the automaker acknowledged the existence of the “death wobble” and identified that roughly 192,000 vehicles suffered from the defect, the new repair outlined in the communication failed to fix the problem, the complaint claims. The plaintiff says that although her Jeep was repaired in line with FCA’s June 2019 guidance—Customer Satisfaction Notification (CSN) V41, which instructed dealers to replace a vehicle’s front suspension steering damper—the car has still repeatedly displayed the “death wobble.”
“Had Plaintiff known or otherwise been made aware of the ‘Death Wobble’ defect and FCA’s inability to repair or cure it, she would not have purchased her Jeep or otherwise would have paid significantly less for it,” the suit reads.
The case goes on to allege the “death wobble” problem has become pervasive to the extent that FCA has routinely bought back Jeep vehicles that have displayed the issue when presented with claims under various states’ Lemon Laws. According to the lawsuit, FCA has, in truth, embarked on a “secret recall and warranty program” of Jeeps subject to CSN V41 that the automaker has kept hidden from government authorities and drivers.
Consumers who bought or leased affected Jeep vehicles have been deprived of the benefit of their bargain, the case says. The plaintiff looks to order FCA US to initiate a buyback of affected Jeep vehicles and remit to proposed class members compensation for the loss of value and depreciation of their cars, reimbursement for parts and labor costs and replacement of any components materially damaged by the “death wobble” problem, among other damages.
Initially filed March 6 in California’s Central District, the suit has since been transferred to Michigan’s Eastern District.
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