James R. Healey
Chrysler Group is recalling nearly 667,000 vehicles because passenger safety restraints could fail to work properly due to electrical problems.
Two separate recalls are taking place, and they don't involve the same models or the same parts.
It's hardly the kind of news Chrysler needs. The automaker wound up in a showdown last month with federal safety officials when it refused to recall 2.7 million Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee SUVs that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said were too likely to catch fire in a rear crash.
Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne and NHTSA administrator David Strickland reached a compromise -- 1.56 million recalled, and the remedy is simple and relatively inexpensive -- in a phone call shortly before the June 18 deadline for Chrysler to recall or risk being hauled into federal court.
Story: Chrysler agrees to downsized Jeep recall
The current recalls:
The smaller one affects 224,254 2013-model Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Ram C/V Tradesman minivans built May 10, 2012, through June 7, 2013.
An electrical polarity problem could cause the wrong side-impact airbags to inflate in a side crash. If the van is hit on the right, the left-side bags would inflate, and vice versa.
That not only leaves occupants on the crash side without bags to help absorb the impact, it also conceivably could push occupants on the side of the van that wasn't hit toward the crash impact.
A fairly simple reprogramming of the airbag system cures the ill, Chrysler says. Dealers will do that free once the official recall begins in August.
The larger recall involves 442,481 vehicles. It can be traced back to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which interrupted supplies not only of cars but also some components.
Chrysler says: "The potentially faulty micro-controllers...entered the supply chain after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a worldwide micro-controller shortage."
2011-2013 Chrysler Sebring and Chrysler 200 cars manufactured June 28, 2011, through December 13, 2012;
2011-2013 Dodge Avenger cars made June 25, 2011, through January 14, 2013;
2011-2012 Dodge Nitro SUVs built June 17, 2011, through December 15, 2011;
2011-2012 Jeep Liberty SUVs manufactured June 17, 2011, through August 15, 2012.
The faulty micro-controllers could prevent the active head restraints on the front seats from moving forward slightly in a rear crash, as they are supposed to do to minimize whiplash injuries.
Beginning in August, dealers will reprogram a control system or replace a control module, whichever is required, at no charge.