Ever heard of a "Totally Integrated Power Module"? If you have lately, odds are it's because you're a Chrysler owner. The obscure-sounding part has reportedly meant expensive repairs for hundreds of owners, a class-action lawsuit, complaints to federal regulators and now an internal investigation by Chrysler themselves.
The module is a fancy name for the fuse box, or as CBS News describes it, the "nerve center" for the vehicle. But Chrysler-brand cars have apparently been dogged with power module failures for years, which can cause airbag non-deployment, fires, stalling, unintended acceleration, headlamp problems, and damage to other components. In particular, 2007 to 2014 model year cars are said to be affected.
One owner told the New York Times that his wife would walk outside in the morning to find their Town & Country minivan with the windows rolled down, the radio blaring, and the fan on, all with no key in the ignition.
Another claimed to CBS News that module failure burned out the fuel pump and ruined the starter on her 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Some dealers have wanted more than $1,000 to replace the part if the car was not under warranty.
The charge against the module is being led by the Center For Auto Safety, which is admittedly a bomb-throwing organization (figuratively, not literally) in the world of recalls and consumer advocacy. They were the ones who claimed GM airbag failures have killed 303 people. They say Chrysler has filed 20 death claims on components that are related to the module.
But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's own database lists, by our count, 122 complaints related to the module (and 240 by the Times') for all sorts of issues. As such, the group is asking NHTSA to launch an investigation into the module.
Chrysler, for their part, says they already are. From the Times:
"Chrysler Group is actively investigating customer complaints and analyzing returned Total Integrated Power Module (T.I.P.M.) parts in its effort to diagnose the source of various issues experienced by customers," Ann Smith, a spokeswoman for the automaker, wrote in an email. Ms. Smith could not immediately say when Chrysler's investigation began.
The faulty module is also the subject of an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed in California that Chrysler unsuccessfully tried to get dismissed recently.
Hey, Chrysler owners: Have you experienced problems like these?