US agency opens probe into 1.1 million Ram 1500 pickup trucks over steering issues

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. auto safety regulators said on Tuesday they were investigating whether 1.1 million older Ram 1500 pickup trucks should be recalled for power steering loss issues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received 380 reports alleging intermittent or complete loss of power steering assistance in 2013-2016 model year Ram 1500 pickup trucks, including reports of three crashes.

In March 2016, Fiat Chrysler Automotive, now known as Stellantis, recalled 440 vehicles to address a possible contamination of the electrical power steering unit. NHTSA said complaints indicated similar failures may be occurring in vehicles outside the recall scope.

NHTSA is opening a recall query “to determine if the scope of the recall mentioned above is correct or if another defect might exist.”

Stellantis said Tuesday the company is “fully cooperating with NHTSA on this investigation.”

Many complaints filed with NHTSA described expensive or serious safety issues or very long waits for repair parts. In January, one Florida driver said the steering wheel of a 2013 Ram 1500 locked and “would not turn left or right” and was quoted a price of more than $2,000 for parts.

Another driver was driving a 2014 Ram 1500 at 55 miles (89 km) per hour on a busy road in California in February when their steering wheel “seized and became immobile. Using tremendous force I was able to get the truck through traffic and to the side of the road.”

A complaint filed in March by a 2015 Ram 1500 driver said due to a power steering assist failure, “the contact drove into a ditch which caused minor damages to the front end of the vehicle.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jon Boyle, Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)