Advocacy group urges Chrysler to recall '97 minivans
Says air bag design endangers children
May 18, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen on Tuesday urged Chrysler to voluntarily recall its 1997 minivan models in order to fix air bags the group says are dangerous to children.
Parent company DaimlerChrysler said it was "enraged" the group would publicize its "premature" recommendation when it is still working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate the results of air bag crash tests of minivans.
The company said the NHTSA would decide whether a recall is warranted.
Public Citizen also called on the NHTSA to release information about the safety of air bags on different vehicles.
"The bottom line is, some air bag designs have never harmed anyone," said Joan Claybrook, executive director of Public Citizen.
Others, like in the Chrysler minivans, have killed 13 children and seriously injured seven others, the group said. About one-third of the children killed or wounded were wearing seat belts.
Public Citizen believes the passenger-side air bags in the 1997 minivans -- Chrysler Town and Country, Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan -- inflate too rapidly.
Mike Aberlich, a spokesman for DaimlerChrysler, said passenger-side air bag injuries are no greater a danger in Chrysler minivan models than those of any other manufacturer.
A NHTSA crash test videotape, played at a news conference in March, used a dummy in a Dodge Caravan to try to show that the top of the Chrysler minivan air bag catches the passenger under the chin, snapping the head back violently.
Aberlich said DaimlerChrysler wants to determine whether the dummy used in the crash test was faulty.
"We asked the government to force automakers to divulge important information about air bag safety," Claybrook said.
"Now, 18 months later, NHTSA has that information but won't tell us the results. Recently, NHTSA was shocked by the deadly results in its own crash tests showing how poorly designed the passenger air bags are in the 1997 Chrysler minivan. These Chrysler minivan airbags ought to be re-called immediately and fixed to make them safe. That, at least, would get one hazard off the road," Claybrook said.
Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said Chrysler changed the design of the air bags in the 1997 minivans without informing the NHTSA. He said that information about the change came through litigation.
Jury finds Chrysler liable for child's air bag death
NHTSA - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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