NHTSA opens safety probe into Dodge, Chrysler minivans

U.S. vehicle safety regulators have opened a preliminary evaluation to assess potential issues with the power sliding doors on 2016 Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans.

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said it had received 476 consumer complaints alleging one or both of the sliding doors on those vehicles could not be opened either by using the mechanical handle or electronic remote switches or controls, according to a NHTSA document. No injuries were reported.

The investigation was opened Friday.

In the complaints, consumers describe having to “remove passengers in the rear of the vehicle through the front doors, the second sliding door (if it was operational), the windows or the rear hatch of the vehicle.”

The population of potentially affected vehicles is listed as “confidential.”

NHTSA and Stellantis did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In 2016, Chrysler — part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and now under Stellantis — issued a technical service bulletin to its dealership network, instructing technicians to replace one or both of the sliding door lock actuators when vehicle owners describe an issue with the locks not functioning or “emitting a loud buzzing noise” during the locking or unlocking process, according to federal investigators.

U.S. safety regulators will evaluate the scope and severity of the alleged defect and assess any potential safety-related issues.

Most NHTSA investigations start as preliminary evaluations, in which agency engineers request information from the manufacturer, including data on complaints, injuries and warranty claims. The manufacturer can also present its view regarding the alleged defect and may issue a recall.

After the evaluation, NHTSA will either close the investigation or move into the next phase. If a safety-related defect exists, according to NHTSA, the agency may send a “recall request” letter to the manufacturer.

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