The Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe
Patrick Rall's picture

2 crashes prompt government safety probe of select Dodge Vipers

After receiving two reports of rear suspension system failures that lead to crashes in the Dodge Viper, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation of some 2,500 units of the all American supercar – what could be the first step towards the government requiring the Chrysler Group to recall their high performance machine.

Details are currently very limited but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a preliminary investigation into the 2005 and 2006 Dodge Viper to see if there is some manufacturing or engineering issue that would make the rear suspension more likely to fail. The federal agency received two complaints where the rear suspension knuckle of the Viper failed – both of which resulted in an accident and one of which caused an injury to at least one person.

We do not yet know the exact symptom of rear suspension failure in the Dodge Viper but based on the simple description – it sounds like the failure is severe enough to make the car uncontrollable. Even something as simple as a broken spring or shock absorber could be enough to allow the rear wheel to do whatever it pleases so it could be a variety of different components failing to cause this problem.

One thing that should be considered is that the Dodge Viper is a high performance sports car with a whole lot of power and a very stiff suspension system. The NHTSA could discover that these cars had a long history of being raced, which could cause advanced wear and tear to the suspension system. If that is the case, the feds may not look any further since recall matters are only supposed to occur from regular street use – not racing problems. At the same time though, if the NHTSA deems this problem to be one that could occur from regular driving, they could proceed through the steps leading to a mandatory recall of the 2005 and 2006 Dodge Viper. Should that be the case, it will be interesting ot see if other model years of the Viper are included in any required action as 2005 and 2006 were the end of the second generation and likely share a great many suspension components with the other Vipers built for the 2003 and 2004 model years.

The preliminary investigation process gives the NHTSA a chance to examine the frequency and the likelihood of this suspension failure while also considering the level of safety risk. The problem in question, where the rear suspension knuckle has failed, most certainly poses enough risk to warrant further action but if the feds cannot find any other incidences of the problem occurring, the government may not require Chrysler to do anything else shy of addressing the issue as it arises. However, should the NHTSA learn of more occurrences of this problem, they could move onto the engineering analysis stage of the investigation where they work to figure out why this is happening. The engineering analysis phase of the process is the final step before a mandated recall but both the preliminary investigation and engineering analysis stages can (and often do) end without further action being taken by the government or the automaker.


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