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Published: Thursday, 6/6/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Chrysler announces pair of voluntary Jeep recalls

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Chrysler Group LLC announced two separate recalls Thursday affecting about 630,000 Jeep sport utility vehicles, including some Toledo-built Wranglers.

Though neither recall is for a serious safety issue, the timing is somewhat unfortunate for Chrysler. The company already is in the spotlight this week for refusing a much larger recall request from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On Tuesday, Chrysler said it would not recall 2.7 million SUVs that the government says are at risk for fuel-tank fires in a rear-end collision. The automaker disputes the government’s claim and says the vehicles are safe.

The recalls announced Thursday — one to upgrade restraint systems controls, and another to fix a potential transmission fluid leak — were voluntary.

Of the 630,000 vehicles included in Thursday’s recalls, about 409,000 are Jeep Patriot and Compass SUVs from the 2010, 2011, and 2012 model years. Chrysler said a software problem could delay side air bag deployment and seat-belt tensioners in some rollover crashes.

Another 221,000 of the Toledo-built Wrangler SUVs are being recalled after routine testing discovered a power-steering line can rub against the transmission oil cooler line, potentially causing a leak. The recall affects 2012 and 2013 Wranglers with automatic transmissions.

Chrysler said it is not aware of any injuries or crashes related to either issue. The company will notify affected customers, the majority of whom are in the United States.

The company’s decision earlier this week not to recall 2.7 million vehicles has attracted lots of media attention.

Chrysler maintains its assertion that the Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993 through 2004 and Jeep Libertys from 2002 through 2007 that federal regulators have targeted are safe.

The NHTSA says those vehicles, which have their gas tanks behind the rear axle, have a flawed design and need to be fixed. The agency said it found 51 deaths had resulted from rear-impact crashes and fires in those vehicles.

But Chrysler said its own review of data, which it released Tuesday, shows no evidence the vehicles are defective. The company also says the vast majority of those fatal crashes involved “high-energy” crashes. It highlighted one instance in which a parked Grand Cherokee was struck by a tractor-trailer going 65 mph.

Bloomberg quoted Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s sales chief, telling reporters the automaker is optimistic consumers will look over that research and agree the vehicles are safe.

“We’ve articulated our position in a tremendous amount of detail why we consider them to be safe,” Mr. Bigland said. “And that’s it. We’re not looking, I’m certainly not looking, to get into a public tit-for-tat on this issue.”

It’s rare for an automaker to dispute a recall request. In fact, the majority of recalls are done voluntarily without NHTSA’s influence. Of Chrysler’s 53 recalls in the last three years, 51 were initiated by Chrysler without the prompting of federal regulators.

Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said consumers typically don’t pay close attention to recalls.

“With that being said, with Chrysler taking the stance not to comply with the government in this case, I could see consumers looking at Chrysler in a negative light,” he said. “The onus will be on Chrysler to really stay ahead of this and give firm reasoning that will be accepted by consumers as to why they’ve not accepted this [recall request].”

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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