LINCOLN (CBS13) — The Hanson family brought their 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee into the dealer for a recall repair expecting to take away the danger. Instead, the family is just one of at least nine that have had fires after the recall repairs.
In the front cabin of the Jeep, a burned out area over the passenger’s seat and soot in the car is what husband and father Eric Hanson saw when he arrived at the scene of the family’s car fire. “I was astonished, said Eric. The aftermath of the fire that tore through the Hanson family’s Jeep Grand Cherokee was devastating.
Wife and mother, Stacie Hanson says she and her two kids were just sitting down to eat at taco bell, when her daughter yelled, “mom your car has smoke coming out of the whole inside of it,” said Stacie.
Eric points out his family was sitting in the SUV just minutes earlier and recalls what first responders said to him, “The firemen were saying that you guys were super lucky,” he said.
The fire report says it “appeared to have started in the head liner/visor area above the passenger front seat.” the same area of their Jeep they had repaired as part of a recall at the start of the year.
Chrysler recalled 651-thousand Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos model years 2011 thru 2014, over an issue with the sun visor vanity lamp wiring and an increased risk of fire.
“We thought it was fixed in January,” said Stacie.
However, this document from March proves Chrysler knew two months after the Hanson’s had their Jeep fixed of a problem with how some recall repairs were done.
The company revised its repair instructions to dealerships saying, “It is critical that the sun visor wire remains under the clip when reinstalling the visor to prevent improper wire routing.”
Yet Chrysler never notified the up to 386-thousand customers who already had the repairs. Moreover, that is what makes the Hanson’s even angrier, they brought their jeep back into the dealership twice after those updated instructions went out from Chrysler in March. Once in April, when the visor light bulb went out and again in May, after smelling something burning.
“Smelling smoke ahhh.. maybe this needs to go on the priority list,” said Stacie.
The dealership told the Hanson’s they had to wait for parts.
“And we waited and our car burned,” said Eric.
At least nine fires occurred in vehicles after the recall fix. Yet, to date there has not been a secondary recall or any notice to consumers of the possible problem.
Consumer advocate Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability & Safety says if there is a known danger, automakers should not let these cars on the road.
“And it’s really reprehensible,” said Rosemary.
The federal government fined fiat Chrysler a record 105-million dollars this summer for its handling of 23-recalls affecting 11-million cars, including this recall.
“Chrysler either needs to come up with a better fix, or buy these cars back,” she said.
We asked Fiat Chrysler why it did not notify car owners of possible issues with the recall fix. A spokesperson suggests the original repair “while intricate, it is effective when performed according to the instructions provided.” Although the company admits, it has since altered the repair instructions, “…to further reduce the probability of a post-repair issue.”
After we got involved Fiat Chrysler, compensated the Hanson’s with a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“I feel a lot safer,” said twelve-year-old Josie Hanson.
Although the Hanson’s think the makers of their recalled jeep gambled with their lives.
“You don’t think your car is going to catch on fire,” said Stacie.
“This happened to a family, this happened to somebody, they need to know this,” said Eric.
Advisories from Chrysler show it knew of confusion surrounding the recall fix as early as November of last year, which is more than a month before the Hanson’s initially had their recall fixed. In addition, the dealership in this case tells us the fix was not crystal clear to the dealership community.
The federal government is now investigating Chrysler’s handling of these recall repairs.
UPDATE: Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are reacting to our investigation.
“Recall effectiveness has been a critical issue with defective GM ignition switches, exploding Takata airbags — and now this serious defect in some Fiat Chrysler vehicles,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. “Just ordering a recall is not enough; we have to ensure it is done quickly and correctly. As I’ve been saying for some time now, the automakers need to stop stalling and get the fixes done as soon as possible.”
“This is yet another example of why Congress must take action to address the serious gaps in our auto safety laws, which are putting lives at risk,” said Representative Lois Capps (D-CA). “Anytime a manufacturer, dealership, or rental company is aware of a safety recall or other safety issues with their vehicles, they have a responsibility to ensure these defects are fixed properly and promptly before the cars are put back onto the road.”