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Chrysler intensifies effort to reach Jeep SUV owners over recall

Saturday, November 8, 2014 - 07:27
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Chrysler Group is intensifying efforts to reach owners of 1.56 million recalled Jeep SUVs to have trailer hitches installed to reduce the risk of fire in case of a rear-end collision, after a weak response to the initial recall, the company said Friday.

[DETROIT] Chrysler Group is intensifying efforts to reach owners of 1.56 million recalled Jeep SUVs to have trailer hitches installed to reduce the risk of fire in case of a rear-end collision, after a weak response to the initial recall, the company said Friday.

The hitches are meant to protect the rear-mounted gas tanks in the event of a lower-speed crash, by increasing the distance of the tanks from the rear vehicle.

As of Friday, about 8 per cent of the owners had responded to the recall. In July, when NHTSA ordered Chrysler to speed up installation of the hitches, Chrysler estimated that 87.5 per cent of the older-model Jeep Liberty SUVs and half the Grand Cherokee SUVs would be brought to dealers.

The initial mailings in August resulted in the owners of only about 125,000 vehicles bringing them to dealerships for inspection and possible hitch installation.

The company is setting up new websites to cast a wider net to owners of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs affected by the recall, said Eric Mayne, a Chrysler spokesman.

Mayne said Chrysler was delving into registration records to determine the ownership of vehicles that may have been resold since they were new.

In June 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Chrysler announced the recall of 1.56 million SUVs - from model years 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty and 1993-1998 Grand Cherokee - with rear fuel tanks because of an increased risk of fire in the event of a rear-end crash.

Since those models were produced, Chrysler has positioned the fuel tanks of its SUVs in front of the rear axle.

Chrysler, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles , has told NHTSA that the cost of putting trailer hitch assemblies on the recalled SUVs was about US$151 million.

The company has worked with its supplier to hike production of the trailer hitches, and now has ample supply, about 447,000, to fix vehicles brought in for inspection, Mr Mayne said. More parts will continue to be produced, he said.

Chrysler had initially resisted NHTSA's demand for a recall of the vehicles due to the fire risk, but then relented.

In January, NHTSA accepted Chrysler's remedy of installing trailer-hitch assemblies on the Jeep SUVs.

REUTERS