Chrysler is recalling 3,663 of its 2007-08 Dodge Nitro vehicles and 2008 model Jeep Liberty vehicles for defects in the parking brake lever that could result in a crash. According to an October 20, 2008 article on Edmunds.com, Chrysler has received 24 reports alleging various degrees of reduced effectiveness of the parking brake system. One report alleged that the defective brake system caused a vehicle to crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states in its recall summary that the park brake lever clutch drum may “distort and reduce the effectiveness of the park brake system.” This could essentially allow the vehicle to move suddenly and inadvertently and cause a crash without warning, the federal agency warned. This recall involves Nitro and Liberty vehicles equipped with manual transmissions that were manufactured before February 2008. Chrysler dealers will replace the lever assembly for free once the recall begins later this month. Owners are asked to contact Chrysler at 1-800-853-1403 for more information about this recall.

Parking brake defects are extremely serious and can lead to catastrophic injuries or death in the event of an accident. We have seen many cases where an ineffective parking brake system can cause a vehicle to roll back without warning and run over unsuspecting victims. Auto collisions are also likely.

A few product defect lawsuits related to parking brakes have received national attention recently. One of those was a class action lawsuit filed against General Motors by vehicle owners who had to pay $500 each to replace these defective parking brakes. Another lawsuit in 2004 involved the Hyundai Motor Company, which recalled its minivans because of defective parking brake cable in its Trajet XG models. The Trajets were sold between 1999 and early 2004.

Manufacturing defects are extremely common among most brands of vehicles. Some involve components and others involve design defects. Some of these defects are not discovered until the vehicles have already been sold. But recall data and industry internal documents show that often, manufacturers do know about a large number of these defects before their vehicles are sold. And some of these defects are even known before the vehicles are actually built. Still some manufacturers will proceed with marketing and selling defective vehicles. To them, getting caught is not as big a deal as the money they would have to spend recalling the vehicles or redesigning the vehicles to make them safer.

It is the consumer who pays a heavy price for these auto product defects either by spending money to repair them or worse, suffering injuries or death in an auto accident caused by those product defects.