Fiat Chrysler has been accused of a ‘potentially lethal cover-up’ in Britain after the shocking death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, aged 27.
The body of the Russian-born actor was found pinned against the gate of his home by his 2.5 ton Jeep Grand Cherokee in Studio City, California, recently.
Investigators said the car had been left in neutral and rolled down the steep driveway at him – and now some believe that might have happened because of a flawed design in certain models of Jeep.
Fiat Chrysler have already been involved in a major recall in the UK following an £80 million fine levied against the luxury car maker for failing to complete 23 safety recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles in recent years.
It was imposed last year as hundreds of thousands of Chrysler vehicles across America were recalled over the ignition system in the company’s upmarket 300c series which could have caused vehicles to burst into flames.
However, shockingly, a recall for similar ‘muscle cars’ in the UK over the same fault was delayed for a year.
CWF journalist and www.RTI.FM broadcaster Leigh G Banks has revealed how he was told at the beginning of 2015 that the ignition recall didn’t affect 300c’s in the UK as they were fitted with different parts – yet a year later his 2008 £50,000 sedan was called in to have the ignition switch replaced because of the danger.
Leigh, from Manchester, said: “We were in New York early in 2015 when we saw the recall in a newspaper … there were suggestions that the ignition switch was dangerous, potentially it could stop the car dead at high speed or even set the vehicle on fire, so when we got back I phoned Fiat Chrysler to see what we should do.
“I was amazed when I was told not to worry; 300c’s in the UK had different parts fitted, mainly from the Netherlands. So we carried on driving.”
Within weeks Leigh and his wife, Andrea, who also works for CWF, were stranded in the snow at midnight in Manchester. The fault was diagnosed as the ignition switch and the car and the couple were put on a low-loader for a murky journey through the night to their home almost hundred miles away.
“Our local dealership changed the switch and it cost us more than a thousand pounds but we paid up to get back on the road – then out of the blue the recall notice came through. I couldn’t believe it, I had potentially been driving round for a year in a vehicle which could kill us.
“We then realised Fiat Chrysler had re-fitted out car with a part which had the same potential fault. How could that happen? If their vehicles were dangerous across the world more than a year ago, how can they only be dangerous in the UK now?”
Leigh and Andrea had to weight more than three months for compensation for the fitting of the potentially dangerous switch.
The recall is similar to a previous one involving about 890,000 vehicles produced from January 2007 to June 2010 in which the ignition switch could slip from the “run” position.
This follows the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration saying in February it had reports of 314 complaints about a different fault which caused vehicles to roll away, 121 of them apparently being involved in crashes.
Last year federal regulators accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles of putting lives at risk by repeatedly failing to perform timely vehicle recalls and tell drivers of dangerous defects.
And in their most aggressive crackdown yet regulators levied a record fine of $105 million against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for failing to complete 23 safety recalls covering more than 11 million vehicles.
It represents an escalation of the agency’s efforts to investigate and punish automakers that do not adequately recall and fix defective models.
Mark R. Rosekind, who took over as the administrator of the US highway safety agency last December, said the heavy fine was a direct result of Fiat Chrysler’s prolonged failures to fix recalled models.
“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said.
CWF has approached Fiat Chrysler for a response.