Let me go off in an entirely different direction for a moment to add another dimension to this sad story. A 2002 model is considerably newer than anything I would trust to be a daily driver, but for the average person, it's an old car. Most people look at the car's current value when deciding if a high-cost repair should be pursued. Since I keep my Grand Caravans until the carpet is the only thing holding the front and rear together, I look at how many more miles I can expect it to last when deciding if it pays to put on new wiper blades, or some other equally-horrendous repair. But that is not my point of interest in this story.
The dealership I used to work at had the county's impound yard for any cars that were involved in crashes with fatalities. I got to see them, and by a huge margin the most were front-wheel-drive GM cars from the 1990s to mid 2000s. Before I go any further, it's important to understand that GM sells more cars than any other manufacturer, so it stands to reason there will be a higher percentage in the salvage yards. But in this case, where fatalities were involved, it was easily 19 GM products out of 20 smashed cars. It got to the point that it made news around the shop when a fatal crash was NOT a GM product.
A friend who used to have a body shop, had an early '90s Dodge Shadow. Those cars were built like ostrich eggs and were really tough. His girlfriend pulled into traffic from a parking lot and got hit in the driver's door by a heavy rear-wheel-drive car going 35 mph. The interior trim panel never got touched, thanks to the steel beams in the doors. Her only injury was a bump to the head. Unfortunately that model was replaced by the plastic Neon tin can that no self-respecting mechanic would want to own. Today we need all kinds of side air bags to protect occupants as well as the older cars did.
In contrast, one day in the late '90s, my mother got stuck in traffic that was waiting for a crash to be cleared on my highway. Later, I found out from a former coworker / friend who was by then a county deputy, that another deputy was following a car on the ice-covered road, and witnessed the crash. Both cars were going 45 mph in a 55 mph zone, and the drivers were doing nothing wrong. The car he was following began sliding sideways and was hit in the passenger door by the oncoming car. All four people, two in each car, were killed instantly. Both were GM front-wheel-drive cars. I've been hit by regular street cars going well over 70 mph on the race track, and the damage never stopped me from being able to drive home. There is no reason anyone should be killed in such a relatively low-speed crash, but it was so common.
Look at this as an opportunity to find something newer, safer, prettier, or with more "toys" inside. Fill in the adjective you value the most. "Prettier" is subjective because all the car designers seem to only be able to copy the Nissan Murano and make unbelievably-ugly "frog cars".
Also be aware that since the mid '70s, the engineers at Ford have come up with all kinds of steering system parts that save them a lot of money, but fall apart way too soon, leading to loss of control and crashes. Ask anyone who ever owned a Tempo or '80s Escort about how many tie rod ends and tires they went through. It was common knowledge that tires rarely lasted 15,000 miles due to the horribly messed-up alignment that they eliminated adjustments for. The intent was the cars rode much smoother than any from the competition, so they sold a pile of them. There was no concern about customer satisfaction after the sale. A friend who worked at a Ford dealership as their suspension and alignment specialist shared all the tricks they came up with to solve pulling problems, but there was nothing they could do to alleviate the terrible tire wear and life problems. Those cars were real cheap to buy, and real expensive to keep on the road, so Ford made a lot more money on repairs after the sale. Based on what I've seen on two friends' late-model Ford products, it appears the "sell at all cost, and to heck with our reputation later" mentality is still there. The attitude seems to be there are always potential new customers to replace those who will never come back. The same is true of GM, but more so for their extremely customer-unfriendly business practices, and less for safety issues. I could elaborate a lot on these business practices, but that is not what this forum is for.
Chrysler is not immune from some of these problems, but as a company, they are very concerned with retaining repeat customers, and they have to do things that keep owners happy to do that. As far as those customer-friendly business practices, some national-level trainers in the aftermarket field rate the best manufacturers as Hyundai, Toyota, and Chrysler, in that order, as the top three. (GM is near the bottom of the list along with VW, Audi, and BMW). That list has nothing to do with fit and finish, comfort, or "initial customer satisfaction", (which means sitting in the dealer's parking lot when they hand you the keys, and nothing more, and things like that. It means the rules and regulations the dealers force you to follow to resolve an issue are designed to benefit the dealer or manufacturer, usually financially, at the expense of the customer who already spent a lot of money to buy the product. Repeat buyers will accept a car can feel like a lemon and that will not translate to the next one they buy of the same brand, but they understand that when they're treated badly in the service department or are forced to spend an unreasonable amount for a repair, that WILL be the same next time. They're going to shop around and think long and hard before going back to that brand. That's why some manufacturers have to constantly advertise for new customers, and some brands sell just fine with almost no advertising other than word-of-mouth.
This might give you more to consider when deciding what you'll be driving in the near future. Some people will stick with one brand no matter what. Some people can be swayed by one negative story while overlooking dozens of positive experiences for the same brand. As I used to tell my students, "you're welcome to prefer any brand of car you want to, just don't tell me yours is better than mine unless you can tell me why". The discussion continued that every manufacturer has strong points and bad points. It's a matter of deciding which of them are most important to you.
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 AT 5:47 PM