DETROIT, June 30 U.S. safety regulators have
opened an investigation into an estimated 260,000 model year
2005 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
because a loose fastener may cause the rear axle to
lock up or detach.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported
the investigation over the weekend on its website. NHTSA said it
has received 15 consumer complaints on the issue. Loose pinion
nuts are suspected to have caused the problem, the government
NHTSA also said the consumers who had complained about the
problem said there was little or no noise or other warning
before the lock-up or separation of the rear axle. NHTSA said
consumers reported incidents that occurred at speeds of 50 miles
per hour (80 km per hour) or greater, and that two alleged the
trucks went into an uncontrolled spin.
"It was five seconds of terror that I thought would surely
end in disaster," said one driver who said he had been traveling
at 60 mph (97 kph) on an interstate when the rear wheels locked
up. He was able to limp his truck to the side of the exit lane
as other vehicles sped by.
A preliminary evaluation may eventually lead to a recall,
but does not always do so. The consumer complaints have not yet
been fully vetted by the automaker or NHTSA.
In February 2013, Chrysler recalled 370,297 vehicles,
including Ram 1500 pickup trucks from model years 2009 to 2011,
for similar issues.
A Fiat Chrysler spokesman on Monday said the company is
cooperating fully with NHTSA.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Paul Simao)