By on November 17, 2014

sergio-marchionne

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has been ordered by a Georgia judge to give a deposition as part of a lawsuit made against his company by a family whose son was killed in a rear-end crash involving a Jeep.

Bloomberg reports the Walden family is suing FCA, stating the fiery accident that took the life of their four-year-old son, Remington Cole, was the result of a safety hazard involving the placement of the fuel tank in their 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The judge asked the automaker to make its CEO available for a videotape deposition at a time agreed upon by both involved parties, per a decision on the case made last month.

FCA’s Chrysler Group stated said Jeep wasn’t defective, and that it met or exceeded safety standards that were in place when the vehicle left the assembly line. The automaker did offer its sympathy to the family, however:

Chrysler Group expresses its most profound sympathy to those affected by this tragedy, which resulted from a collision with a pickup truck driven in a manner police described as “erratic, reckless, careless (and) negligent.”

The statement follows a similar response made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June 2013, when the agency requested the automaker recall 2.7 million Grand Cherokees and Libertys over the vehicles’ fuel tanks, which posed a fire risk due to their location between the rear bumper and axle. FCA later applied a fix for 1.56 million affected units — the installation or repair of a trailer hitch to help minimize the effects of a low-speed crash — but not for the 1999 Grand Cherokee like the one cited in the lawsuit.

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30 Comments on “FCA CEO Ordered To Give Deposition In Jeep-Related Lawsuit...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Mr. Marchionne, Mary Barra on line one…”

  • avatar
    sirwired

    The “met standards at the time” excuse is bogus. Just because the feds did not explicitly write down “should not explode in a ball of fiery doom in an otherwise easily survivable rear-end collision” as a formal standard doesn’t mean that you get a free pass when your car manages to explode a lot more often than the contemporary competition.

    No standards writer would ever be able to put down his/her proverbial pen if they had to explicitly enumerate all the various ways in which the automaker should avoid doing something stupid. (Not to mention that it would cue complaints by the automakers that the standards were too large and complicated, require too many crash tests, and should be simplified. Applying statistical tests vs. other vehicles is a way of doing that.)

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      So the tank hangs so low, shouldn’t it be washed as part of detailing? I always wonder why things like that or clearly visible, grungy frame rails or wheel liners don’t get washed, on a highly detailed SUVs.

      But Chrysler should’ve known better. High riding SUV with low hanging fuel tank?

      All its contemporary competition had the fuel tank ahead of the truck’s axle.

      http://fp.images.autos.msn.com/Media/425×255/ef/ef76cd49c0d24807ae66e9dae6c08056.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      fatnate

      Do you know how crash test standards work? You do know that after a crash test they look for things like leaks right? If the government tells a company that their product is safe and that it meets their safety spec what do you expect the company to do?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        True except the very low and exposed tank on a high riding SUV, is right there where you can see it. From a football field away. It’s sitting right where a normal front bumper lines up with it directly. You have to try really hard not to see the danger.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      With the same logic, how is it that the manufacturer has to anticipate every type of accident the vehicle will encounter. When does the liability end? If someone ends up killed in a Model T can the family sue Ford and win? Pretty soon this country is going to litigate itself out of affordable cars.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      If the customer buys the car, he approves the design. As well as the production tolerances etc. Anything else, is just allowing greedy third parties to inject themselves into the value chain between customer and manufacturer.

      Which is, given who runs this dump by now, kind of the whole point… But seriously suboptimal for the evolution of cars into safer, cheaper, better machines nonetheless.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    When did that accident happen?
    If the parents drove a 15 year old Chrysler they apparently didn’t care about safety either.
    Shame on Chrysler for that design, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      They might have been poor so this was the best and newest vehicle they could afford, and/or misinformed about the relative safety of SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Driving a vehicle that’s still well within a normal useful lifespan equates to “not caring about safety”? Really?

      It’s not like they were driving around some classic car from 60’s without seat belts or something… this vehicle wasn’t exactly fresh out of the factory, but neither was it an unreasonably old jalopy.

      And while late-model vehicles are generally safer, it’s not unreasonable to expect that your 15-yr-old car will be as safe as other similar vehicles from the same period.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This smells like the police Crown Vic exploding problem, where plaintiffs expected a car rear-ended at 70 mph to remain intact.

    I’m not buying it.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Rear ended at 70 mph, the car is usually FUBAR anyways. Crash enough of them and anything can happen. Millions of CVs on the road and most put in harm’s way intentionally?

      But you’d expect a slightly better survival rate in 30 mph bumper tag.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Last week. there was an accident in the Detroit area where a 23 year old pregnant woman, who was in her third trimester, died after being rear ended in her Jeep Liberty. The cause of death was burns and smoke inhalation. The family already has an attorney readying a products liability case against Chrysler.

    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2014/11/14/ferndale-woman-in-fiery-crash-drove-recalled-jeep/19018725/

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Why didn’t Fiat get a similar legal protection from liability to GM for the product made prior to the bailout?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      GM and Chrysler do not have liability for crashes that occurred prior to the bankruptcy. This crash occurred three years after the BK, so there is the possibility of liability.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Triple jeopardy or what. Chrysler designed that vehicle, got bought by Mercedes in1998, who flogged it to the utter dimbulbs at Cerberus in what, 2006, who went bankrupt two years later, and eventually the remains got gifted 25% to Fiat as a new corporate entity

    Now FCA get to hold responsibility? Yes, that makes sense. Sure.

    I’d like to complain about Shredded Wheat and Cheerios from 1962. These were the only breakfast cereals tested by Consumer Reports which could not sustain life in rats. And I ate a lot of those cereals back then. Burp. Not after I read that issue. That stuff had almost zero food value, but of course immediately afterwards became vitamin therapy in disguise, as later tests showed. Healthy eatin’ all of a sudden, but by then it was Special K for me. They had put the vitamins in from day one and recommended you pour milk on their otherwise worthless husks. Smart.

    I hazard a guess that the US habit of electing judges has to be onet reason why this lawsuit wasn’t thrown out as frivolous. Gotta be a populist to get re-elected.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Seriously Derek, Verticalscope is starting to look *really* incompetent over this spam thing. I realize the TTAC staff itself has little control and is working with their corporate partners to rectify the problem, but seriously how long does it take to realize either WordPress has defects or IT introduced defects at some point from September to now. I believe WordPress is defective -in at least how TTAC is configured- due to the numerous changes they made to the spam filter from v1.5 to now (released 31.Aug.14). Rollback to prior to this or reconfigure/neutralize your spam filter, seriously this is not that hard.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Every time that the spam filter eats a comment, a kitten dies and an airbag explodes.

      The problem isn’t with WordPress, but with the spam filter.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Two things have happened since early September and now:

        WordPress released v4.0 on 4.Sept.14

        http://codex.wordpress.org/Version_4.0

        There have been significant updates to the spamshield plugin since 8/31 (v1.5).

        https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-spamshield/changelog/

        Without more information I could not be certain to rule either change in or out but these problems first seem to begin in September. While logs and troubleshooting are required to pursue the problem I find this suspicious as you have two major changes happening around the time the issues were first reported. Generally speaking IT staff who are worth their salt as paid well, I fail to understand how this can continue to happen for so long with no resolution on a blogging website.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          There are many, many, many spam filter plugins available. They are developed by outside developers who are independent of WordPress.

          You have no way of knowing what TTAC does to filter for spam, but the odds are high that they have nothing do with the one that you found.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Spam filtering is largely done through plugins or other additions to WordPress, not by WordPress itself. There are a gazillion plugins for filtering spam, and those were developed by independent developers, not by WordPress.

          You have no idea which one TTAC is using, but it probably isn’t the one that you linked.

          It’s quite possible that TTAC developed its own plugin and didn’t use one developed by a third party.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The default plugin WordPress ships with is Akismet. This is true without more information I cannot be sure and you make a point about developing an “in house” plugin. All I can do is speculate, although it seems my speculation on the matter is at the moment the only work being put forward to rectify it.

            http://codex.wordpress.org/Akismet

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Plugins can be installed or uninstalled in a matter of seconds.

            Akismet is popular, but it is far from the only one in use. Perhaps TTAC is using it, perhaps it isn’t. There’s no obligation to use it, and it is easily avoided for those who would prefer to use something else.

    • 0 avatar

      Send an email to editors at ttac dot com explaining this and I’ll pass it on. Neutralizing the spam filter is *not* an option. The comments section would be chaos.

      I’m probably the least popular person at VS right now due to my haranguing of IT over this issue.

  • avatar
    and003

    In my view, this is a pretty sad state of affairs. Marchionne wasn’t even in charge when these particular Jeeps were built, and the Chrysler Group LLC that merged with Fiat SpA is a new corporate entity, unconnected to the original Chrysler, which built these particular Jeeps.

    It isn’t fair that he and his associates should have to take the heat for the original Chrysler’s mistakes, especially since he’s been trying to improve the quality of Chrysler vehicles, even though it should be noted that Consumer Reports recently flunked them on reliability issues.

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