March 8, 2002
14 Million 1993-2002 Chrysler Vehicles Have Faulty
Seatbelt Buckles That Should Be Recalled
The Center for Auto Safety today called on DaimlerChrysler to recall
14 million vehicles with Gen 3 seatbelt buckles that can inadvertently
release in a crash due to a release button that protrudes too high and
fails a simple safety test that other manufacturers’ seatbelt buckles
pass. The problem is that the release button can be hit by a an elbow,
a child seat or other object in a crash and release.
According to CAS Executive Director, Clarence Ditlow, the defect can
be deadly and escapes detection because after the crash it looks like
the occupant was not wearing a seat belt.
Mr. Ditlow said: “Seat belts are your last line of defense in a
crash and should never fail. Yet Chrysler’s Gen 3 seatbelt buckles are
like a perfect crime because dead men tell no tales. After a fatal crash,
the occupant is not alive to say the buckle came apart. The Center calls
on DaimlerChrysler to recall all Gen 3 seatbelt buckles and replace them
with the safer Gen 4 buckle.”
The Center also called on NHTSA to adopt the industry standard test
using a 30 to 40 mm ball pressed against the buckle release button. No
belt buckle should release when such a ball is pressed against it. The
Center urged NHTSA to adopt a standard that uses the smaller 30 mm ball
because it is a more rigorous test.
In the late 1970’s, NHTSA considered requiring a inadvertent release
test but dropped it when US auto companies complained it was too burdensome.
Some European companies advocated a 40 mm ball test which was required
in Europe at the time.