In a sign of Fiat Chrysler’s new hypersensitivity to safety -- its efforts to keep on the right side of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- the automaker said today it would voluntarily supply owners of 441,578 Dodge Chargers from the 2011-16 model years in the U.S. with free wheel chocks.
Wheel chocks. Let that sink in a minute.
For the uninitiated, wheel chocks are large, usually wedge-shaped items that are put fore and aft of a vehicle’s wheel to keep it from rolling during a flat-tire change.
Chocks are fine devices -- simple and cheap and completely effective at what they are intended to do -- and are almost universally recommended equipment by automakers to safely change a tire. Their retail cost is as cheap as $15.
How simple are they? Well, when a wedge-shaped chock isn’t available, two bricks or big rocks or hunks of wood can be used as a nearly equal substitute.
In the case of the Charger recall, FCA said it knows of three minor injuries from customers changing a tire who didn’t follow the owner’s manual and chock the opposite-side tire. I checked: They were hand injuries that didn’t require medical follow-up.
The recall affects the Charger only and not its sister vehicles, the Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300, though all three share a number of components and powertrain configurations. It also includes an estimated 19,229 cars in Canada; 4,969 in Mexico and 38,947 outside the NAFTA region. FCA says recall notices will be sent to Charger owners when they may obtain their free wheel chocks.
Look, I’m all for safety, and hopefully, most motorists know the proper procedure, outlined in their owner’s manual, for changing a flat tire. If they don’t, there are plenty of services available to do so for them.
But are we at the point where automakers are so scared of safety regulators that they start passing out the equivalent of bricks to keep their customers from getting a boo-boo when they improperly change a tire?
There were nearly 900 recall campaigns in 2015, involving over 51 million vehicles. The vast majority were completely legitimate. But were they all?
To me, I think we may have finally reached the “jump the shark” moment of this ongoing NHTSA saga. (It’s a thing. It involves Fonzie and “Happy Days.” If you don’t know, look it up.)
And it makes me wonder: If the automobile had only just been invented, would regulators even let them be sold?
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