1,000 German Marks for Chrysler's European Minivan Latch Letter

11 August 1998

Safety Consultant Offers DM1,000 for Copy of Chrysler's European Minivan Latch Letter
    ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 11 -- Auto safety consultant Ralph Hoar
is offering 1,000 Deutschmarks for a copy of the minivan latch warning letter
that Chrysler claims it sent to 200,000 European Chrysler minivan owners.
Hoar has a safety consulting firm in Arlington, Virginia.  He has been a long-
time critic of Chrysler's minivan rear liftgate latches, and of Chrysler's
efforts to minimize the hazards associated with the defective latches.
    Last month, Hoar announced that Chrysler had "failed to tell European van
owners of the faulty latches" and had "not offered to replace defective
latches on the rear doors of minivans it sold overseas as it has in the U.S."
    Chrysler immediately issued a statement saying, "Nothing could be further
from the truth." Chrysler claimed that it "did notify distributors, and even
notified customers directly in the two countries with the most minivan sales -
- Germany and France."  The company claimed "we followed the same formula
around the world."  The company accused Hoar of "spreading false claims."
     "Chrysler has distorted the truth about its defective minivan latches
since the controversy began.  It's unlikely to change now," Hoar said.  "It
will be interesting to see which attitude toward safety will prevail when
Chrysler and Mercedes join forces.  Chrysler could learn a few things from its
new partner," Hoar added.  He noted that Mercedes spent enormous sums of money
to redesign, recall and change the entire suspension in its new "A" car when
it proved prone to rollover.  "We've urged Chrysler to stop treating its
European customers like second class citizens. Chrysler should warn Europeans
of the hazard that the latches pose and offer to replace latches on European
vans at no charge -- just as they've done in the U.S. and Canada -- nothing
more, nothing less," Hoar said.
    Chrysler's statement last month claims they've already done so.  "Chrysler
has repeatedly refused our request and the requests of others for copies of
the letters that they sent to European van owners.  That's why we're offering
DM1,000 to the first European Chrysler minivan owner who provides us with a
copy of a letter from Chrysler warning that the latch might fail and offering
to replace the latch at no cost to the van owner.  The letter must predate our
July 10, 1998, announcement," Hoar said.
    German journalist Axel Wolf reported on July 25, 1998, in Suddeutsche
Zeitung that in Germany "there has been no recall campaign from Chrysler up to
this point." Contrary to what Chrysler was saying in the U.S., a Chrysler
Germany spokesperson told Wolf "replacing the part is not relevant for us in
Europe."  Concerning the contradictory statements from Chrysler USA and
Chrysler Germany, Andrea Leitner, press representative for Chrysler Germany,
stated, "We have no comment on that."
    The letter can be sent via fax to 703-841-8390 or via mail to 1001 N.
Highland St., Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia, 22201, U.S.A.  For further
information visit http://www.safetyforum.com

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