Nearly 500,000 vehicles were recalled Friday by Chrysler, citing dozens of reports of fires in the Dodge Durano and Jeep Liberty. There have been sixty-six reported fires so far, all coming from the Dodge Durango, model years 2004-2006.
In addition to the 328,424 Durangos affected by the recall, an additional 149,605 Jeep Liberty SUV’s were recalled. These vehicles, from 2006-2007, were called back to the factory in order to fix the heating/cooling/ventilation blower motor. There had been reports of this catching fire as well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had initiated investigations into the problems with both Chrysler-made sport utility vehicles last year. In at least two cases, Liberty drivers suffered minor burns resulting from fires caused by the blower motor in the SUV’s air-conditioning system.
And nearly 11,000 Dodge Avengers from the upcoming 2008 model year were pulled back as well, due to front door latches on both the driver and passenger side. This was purely mechanical, as according to Chrysler, no accidents or injuries have yet been reported due to the faulty latches.
According to Max Gates, a spokesman for Chrysler, if drivers notice issues with the Durango’s interior lights, they should immediately take the car back to the dealer to have it inspected. This is a sign that a circuit in the instrument panel has overloaded and overheated.
“Obviously we would prefer not to do this, but we feel this is an important part of our business,” Gates said. “So we do this when we have to.
Owners of the Jeep Liberty should take caution if they smell overheated plastic. In this case, owners are cautioned to keep their blower at less than full power until it is serviced.
Durango owners will be officially notified of the recall in April, and Liberty owners will get their information in May. The Avenger recall is just underway, and owners will be notified when replacement parts become available.
This recall is the second such move by Chrysler in the past two weeks. Nearly 51,000 vehicles were called back to the factory in late February, in order to reprogram the vehicle’s anti-lock brake software. But Gates cautioned potential buyers to look at more than a two-week chunk of time in order to form an opinion about the company. “I think it’s important not to read too much into the short term,” he said.
Chrysler, which is facing a possible sale by Daimler, the German ownership group, has fallen to the fourth most popular U.S. car manufacturer. After sales plummeted in 2006, a year in which the company lost nearly $1.5 billion, Chrysler laid of 13,000 workers in an attempt to make a profit by 2008.