Tag Archive | "Chrysler"

Chrysler Names Bigland to Head Alfa Romeo Brand in North America

Chrysler Group LLC said on Monday its head of U.S. sales, Reid Bigland, has been appointed to lead the Alfa Romeo brand for North America, as it prepares for a relaunch aimed at reaching sales of 150,000 in four years, reported Reuters.

Bigland, 47, joined Chrysler in 2006 as the head of its Canadian operations, a position he continues to maintain. He will be in charge of relaunching the sporty Alfa Romeo brand, which has not been sold in the United States and Canada since 1996.

Chrysler, which is owned by Fiat SpA, also announced that Robert Hegbloom will head its Ram Truck brand. Hegbloom, 50, was also named to its North American leadership team. He joined Chrysler in 1986.

Bigland is also a member of the same North American leadership team as well as being a member of the Fiat Chrysler Group Executive Council.

“Both Reid and Bob have grown tremendously as leaders in the last five years, and the time has come for them to have expanded leadership roles,” Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, said in a statement.

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Chrysler Creates Vehicle Safety Office, Puts Veteran in Charge

Chrysler Group LLC on Tuesday announced the establishment of a new office called “vehicle safety and regulatory compliance” led by a veteran company senior vice president, Scott Kunselman, reported Reuters.

The move comes as U.S. automakers are under increased scrutiny over safety issues, and after Chrysler’s cross-town rival, General Motors Co, established a similar office earlier this year.

“This action will help intensify the company’s continuing commitment to vehicle safety and regulatory compliance,” Chrysler said in a statement.

Chrysler is fully owned by Fiat.

So far this year, Chrysler has recalled about 3.2 million vehicles in the United States, while GM has recalled about 25.8 million vehicles.

Prior to the establishment of the new safety office, Chrysler’s engineering group was responsible for vehicle safety and regulatory compliance.

“Effective immediately, this function will be served by a stand-alone organization,” with Kunselman reporting directly to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler said in its statement, as part of the company’s North American executive team.

Kunselman has previously been senior vice president in charge of Chrysler’s North American purchasing and supplier quality. Prior to that, he headed the company’s engineering division, which handled safety and regulatory issues.

In March, GM named a 40-year company veteran, Jeff Boyer, who had been its director of engineering operations, as its new vehicle safety chief in the wake of a series of ignition switch recalls. Boyer reports to GM’s chief executive officer, Mary Barra.

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Chrysler Recalls Fiat 500L on Knee Air Bag Issue

Chrysler Group LLC will recall about 29,500 Fiat 500L compact cars because knee air bags may not work properly if a driver is not wearing a seat belt, the company said on Wednesday, reported Reuters.

Testing by Chrysler and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that the driver’s knee air bag may not deploy in the proper position to protect fully the knees of an unbelted driver, a company spokesman said.

Chrysler, a unit of Fiat SpA, said it is not aware of any injuries related to the issue.

Most of the cars recalled are registered in the United States, and 4,000 in Canada.

The recall will affect Fiat 500L cars from the 2014 and 2015 model years.

Driver’s knee air bags are standard equipment in the 5000L.

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Chrysler Recalls 895,000 S.U.V.s for Fire Risk in Vanity Mirrors

Following an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chrysler is recalling almost 895,000 sport utility vehicles because a wiring problem in the vanity mirror can cause a fire, the automaker said in a report posted Friday on the safety agency’s website, reported The New York Times.

The action covers 2011-14 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango models, including about 651,000 in the United States, 45,700 in Canada, 23,000 in Mexico and 175,000 outside North America.

Chrysler said that a sun visor screw could penetrate a wire for the vanity light, causing a short circuit that could lead to a fire. The automaker said it discovered the problem in 2011 at its Detroit assembly plant, following complaints from owners about “sun visor thermal damage.” It concluded that the wire was penetrated when workers at the assembly plant were repairing incorrectly installed headliners and had to remove the visor. To correct the problem, Chrysler began making a series of changes to the manufacturing process, the last one early in 2013, “to ensure a repair operation was more robust.” The company said it also discovered problems when repairs to the visor or headliner had been performed at dealerships.

In August 2013, federal regulators began an investigation, responding to owner complaints about fires near the vanity mirror. The investigation was upgraded last January to a more serious engineering analysis after N.H.T.S.A. received 41 complaints about the problem and 38 reports of fires, including three with injuries. Many of the fires were minor and involved smoldering, but some owners reported more serious problems. “In some reports the fire spread to the front seats and/or door panels of the vehicle. In one report the sunroof was damaged, causing the glass to shatter,” the agency reported.

In a March 19 letter, Chrysler told the agency that its internal investigation had concluded that the problem was extremely limited and resulted in little damage. The automaker also said that it had received no reports of injuries and that “there is no unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety.”

The agency, however, pushed its case and the automaker agreed to the recall.

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Chrysler Expands Ignition Switch Recall by 696,000 Vehicles

U.S. safety regulators announced an expansion on Monday of a previous recall to include more model years of Fiat Chrysler vehicles that have ignition switches that can be inadvertently shut off, reported Reuters.

Added to a previous recall were model year 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans, and 2009 Dodge Journey crossover vehicles. The previous recall affected the same three models from the 2010 model year.

Chrysler said in a statement that the expanded recall is being done “out of an abundance of caution” and includes an additional 695,957 vehicles, in addition to the previous recall of 196,000 vehicles, in North America.

Officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also want more information from Chrysler about the inadvertent cutting off of engines and air bags because of potentially faulty ignition switches on 2006-2007 Jeep Commander and 2005-2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. The NHTSA is also investigating the Jeep models.

General Motors Co (GM.N) announced the recall on Monday of 8.23 million mostly older models, including the Chevrolet Impala, because of ignition switch defects. Three deaths are linked to the latest GM recall.

So far this year, GM has recalled about 29 million vehicles worldwide, about half of them for ignition switch issues.

As for the Journey and minivans recall, the NHTSA said it wants more information from Chrysler on why a remedy for potentially defective ignition switches might not solve the issue of air bags not deploying in a crash.

Chrysler said it proposed a remedy that would make it more difficult to inadvertently bump the ignition from the “run” to “accessory” position while driving, which turns off the engine and the air bags.

Chrysler said it is aware of two accidents and no injuries in the affected Journey, Grand Caravan and Town & Country models.

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U.S. Opens Safety Review of Chryslers

Concern over the safety of ignition switches is spreading beyond General Motors cars, reported The New York Times.

Federal regulators disclosed on Wednesday that they were conducting a review of all the major automakers for ignition-switch problems similar to the safety defect that G.M. has linked to at least 13 deaths.

The review, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has turned up potential problems in at least one company so far. The agency announced that it had opened investigations into about 1.2 million Chrysler vehicles over concern that jostling the ignition key could accidentally cut power in a moving car and disable the air bags — a flaw strikingly similar to the one that has thrown G.M. into turmoil and forced it to recall millions of small cars.

In a statement, the safety agency said the Chrysler inquiries were part of new “broader efforts” to evaluate problems with ignition systems and failure of air bags to deploy in crashes. Toward that end, the agency said it “examined all major manufacturers’ air bag deployment strategies as they relate to switch position.”

A spokeswoman did not immediately respond when asked whether the industrywide review was finished, but the statement said the agency “will continue to refine its knowledge of these systems.”

The G.M. ignition-switch defect has brought scathing public criticism, a half-dozen investigations and scores of lawsuits, in part because the company acknowledges it waited more than a decade to recall the vehicles even though the problem was known and studied internally for years.

As the Chrysler ignition issues were being made public on Wednesday, G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, was testifying before a congressional committee investigating the company’s handling of the issue, her third appearance before lawmakers on the matter this spring.

Contacted after N.H.T.S.A.’s announcement, Honda, Ford, Nissan and Toyota said they continuously monitor consumer complaints and warranty issues, but had not paid any special attention to ignition issues as a result of G.M.’s problems. Hyundai and Volkswagen did not immediately respond to messages.

A review of complaints filed to the N.H.T.S.A. by drivers of cars made in the last 10 years showed that reports of stalls of moving cars related to ignition-switch problems were not limited to vehicles made by G.M. and Chrysler; such complaints existed for a variety of vehicles.

One filed in June 2005 about a 2004 Toyota Solara indicated that the car repeatedly shut off “while driving 25 mph, 55 mph, 65 mph, and other speeds.” The driver brought the car to several dealers near Deforest, Wis., according to the complaint. None could duplicate or fix the problem.

Another driver of a 2004 Honda Accord wrote in July 2004, alarmed that the car had shut off on an expressway in Yardley, Pa., while going 65 miles an hour. After coasting to the side of the road, “I was able to start the car up and then realized that the ignition key had slipped forward into the off position while I was driving,” the driver wrote.

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Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, the car valuation firm, said taking a close look at ignition issues industrywide might be a prudent move.

“I think it’s something that might be worth looking at from our perspective,” he said. In many thousands of test drives of brand-new vehicles, Mr. Gutierrez said he had never experienced an ignition cutting out. But he said it was worth investigating whether problems are likely to develop in older cars and whether most companies use similar switch designs.

The Chrysler investigations cover certain model years of Jeep Commanders and Grand Cherokees; Grand Caravan and Town and Country minivans; and Journey sport-utility vehicles. In 2011, Chrysler recalled a small portion of those cars for ignition stall-outs — 196,000 model year 2010 Grand Caravans, Journeys and Town and Country minivans, as well as 12,700 Volkswagen Routans that were built by Chrysler.

But the safety agency said it was looking at whether to expand that recall. Regulators said they had received 23 complaints about ignition-key problems from owners of models that were not recalled, as well as a few from people who said they had the recall repairs made, but the problem occurred again.

N.H.T.S.A. is also investigating whether Chrysler should be required to recall about 525,000 Jeep Commanders from the 2006 and 2007 model years, and Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2005 and 2006 model years, according to a report published Wednesday on the agency’s website.

The agency said it had received at least 32 complaints, stretching back six years, from Jeep owners who say that the driver’s knee hit the ignition-key chain.

At least one of those complaints goes back to 2008, but the agency did not open an investigation until Wednesday.

“This causes the engine to shut off, affects power steering and brakes and may potentially result in the vehicle’s air bags not deploying during a frontal crash,” the report said. Regulators said there was one crash and no injuries associated with the problem.

“This has happened four times now,” wrote one owner in a complaint filed in June 2008. “I was driving my 1-year-old son to the babysitter’s house. My knee bumped the key as I was approaching a turn, shutting off the vehicle/power steering.”

“Luckily I slammed the brakes and stopped just in time,” the owner said.

Chrysler said it was cooperating with regulators. “Chrysler Group is awaiting additional information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” the company said in an email.

Some drivers who wrote in to the safety agency’s website noted the placement of the ignition. For example, the driver of a 2005 Saab in South Euclid, Ohio, said that the ignition’s position, on the console between the driver and passenger seat, left it vulnerable to being jostled. “At over 60 mph,” the driver wrote, “the ignition has been accidentally turned off. This causes an immediate loss of power steering and power brakes, making the car very difficult to steer and stop.”

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The ignition key, the owner continued, “is not protected nor locked in any way to safeguard bumping the key and turning off the ignition. My local dealer has no parts or repair to correct the problem and Saab USA does not acknowledge that a problem exists.”

Ignition systems that use a key to turn the vehicle on are fairly simple, well-understood systems, said Anna G. Stefanopoulou, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Automotive Research Center at the University of Michigan.

The problem, she said, is that carmakers have added more features that need electric power, like power assist on the steering and deploying air bags.

But these ignition systems have been so tried-and-true that automakers have not developed backup systems to provide power should the engine be accidentally turned off, she said in a telephone interview. Such systems, she added, are very expensive and typically found only in the aerospace industry.

“This is a particularly unique situation because a lot of the electrical systems are based on the assumption that you will have the electricity,” she said.

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