Chrysler is expanding the recall of Jeep Commander SUVs to repair engine stalling that has endangered scores of Jeep owners.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that the automaker has now recalled 24,461 2006 Jeep Commanders to reprogram automatic transmission software in Jeeps equipped with the 4.7 liter engine.
NHTSA warned Commander owners that the software glitch could cause a crash without warning.
But consumers say the problem is more widespread than Jeep admits
Chrysler is recalling 1,338 of the 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Commander SUVs to repair a stalling problem in the vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the the front control module may have been incorrectly manufactured. This could cause the engine to stall while driving or nor to start.
The safety agency also reported that the windshield wipers on the vehicle may fail. Engine stalling or inoperative wipers could cause a crash without warning, NHTSA said on its web site.
ConsumerAffairs.com readers report that the stalling problem is far more widespread than just a handful of 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Commanders.
In Arlington, Texas, Joanna said her 2006 Jeep Commander stalls without warning during turns which are both from moving and stopped positions. It occurs during cold and hot weather, with electrical devices on or off, in park, neutral and drive, Joanna said.
From Anniston, Alabama, Deanna reported a similar condition with her 2000 Grand Cherokee.I can be traveling 65 mph or less or sitting in the drive-through when it stalls. All power is lost," she said.
Deanna said her Jeep is now dangerous to drive and she is afraid to get behind the wheel.
Elizabeth in El Paso Texas agreed.
I too have been having stalling problems with my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, she wrote. I am scared to drive on the highway because it sputters and stalls suddenly. The problem has not been found. We have replaced the fuel pump, but the problem continues.
Chrysler should do something about all of the stalling problems," Elizabeth warned. By searching online, I found that dozens of people have the same problem with their Jeep. Too many people have had the same thing happen while driving.
For Jeeps part of the limited recall just announced, dealers will inspect the front control module and replace it if necessary. Jeep owners can contact Chrysler about the stalling problems at 1-800-853-1401 or NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153).
Limited Recall to Repair Jeep Stalling Epidemic...
By Joe Benton
Unintended acceleration is claimed in New York accident
A Jeep plowed into a crowd and killed a 15-year-old girl
A New York woman who was involved in an October accident that killed a 15-year-old Irish girl blames the accident on unintended acceleration involving a Jeep Cherokee SUV and says federal safety regulators have not done enough to eliminate the problem.
But a Chrysler spokesman said safety regulators have never documented an unintended acceleration claim due to mechanical error in any Jeep model.
"There are few motor vehicle defect allegations that have been more exhaustively investigated or more thoroughly refuted than claims of sudden unintended acceleration (SUA)," Chrysler's Michael Palese told ConsumerAffairs. "Comprehensive studies by safety regulators at the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Japan’s Ministry of Transportation, Transport Canada, plus dozens of independent analyses all reached the same conclusion: these incidents are caused by driver error, specifically drivers who believe they are applying the brakes when they are actually pressing the accelerator. No study has ever identified any specific defect in any vehicle that would cause sudden, unintended acceleration."
The woman whose car was struck by an out-of-control Jeep says unintended acceleration is "the only thing that makes sense."
"The car I was in was hit by a 2002 Jeep Cherokee careening out of a parking lot at a very high rate of speed. The lady in the Jeep had been a volunteer for the school's fundraiser held adjacent to that parking lot," Marianne O'Grady told ConsumerAffairs. "After the lady barrelled into my car at such a high rate of speed and sent me going forward, she incredibly accelerated past me, and continued on a path of destruction which included one fatality."
After striking Marianne's car, the Jeep, driven by Roseanne Piccirilli, 55, plowed into a crowd of people attending a street fair in Yonkers, N.Y., the evening of Oct. 11. Kalie Gill, 15, from Fenagh, Co Leitrim, Ireland, was killed and four other persons were injured, two critically, including Kalie's sister, Lindsey, 12. The sisters were students at St. Paul the Apostle School in Yonkers, where Piccirilli is a teacher.
Police have not charged Piccirilli pending the outcome of an accident reconstruction investigation and the girls' mother, Karen Gill, said she does not hold the teacher responsible.
Doctors say Lindsey is expected to make a complete recovery but the family faces catastrophic medical expenses and does not have health insurance. At least two benefits are being held to raise funds for her case.
"She's a good woman, a good person and she didn't mean to do this," Karen Gill said in the waiting room at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, USA Today reported. "I believe it was a freak accident. I just wish her well."
“It’s an unusual case,” Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said, according to the Yonkers Journal News. He said tests on the Jeep and toxicology reports were expected to take at least several weeks.
Lindsey had been in an induced coma for several days after the accident and was unable to attend her sister's funeral but sent a letter that was read at Kalie's funeral Mass, the Independent reported.
"When I found out about your death, I tried to cry, but no tears came out," she wrote. "I just sat and looked at the ceiling and froze – thinking you were looking down and praying for me."
She added: "I love you and I always thought of you as my best friend, sister. . . I'm sorry I can't make it to your wake and funeral, but I am here trying to survive for you."
Witnesses quoted by local news reports said the Jeep backed out of its parking spot at a high rate of speed, then shot forward when it was shifted into Drive.
"The lady had no drugs or alcohol in her blood, and the sudden acceleration problem is the only thing that makes sense," O'Grady said.
While reports of unintended acceleration are common, there are few instances in which the vehicle is found to be at fault. Most cases involve "pedal misapplication" -- meaning that the driver accidentally steps on the accelerator instead of the brake.
15 cases per month
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that there are at least 15 pedal misapplication crashes in the United States every month. Drivers in almost two-thirds of the crashes are women and the crashes most often occur in parking lots, NHTSA found. It said drivers involved in pedal misapplication crashes tend to be shorter.
But whatever the cause, accidents do happen and they sometimes involve drivers whose qualifications make it unlikely they didn't know which pedal was which.
In August 2009, a California highway patrolman and his family were killed in their runaway Lexus ES 350 on a San Diego freeway. Someone calling from the car before it crashed at over 100 miles per hour said they couldn't stop it. Seconds later, it struck an SUV. The accident helped put unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles at the top of the safety agenda and eventually led to the 2010 recall of millions of Toyota and Lexus models.
Investigators say other cases often involve shorter drivers, who may have trouble reaching the pedals and may be more prone to confuse the accelerator and brake or may be more likely to step on both pedals simultaneously.
Jeeps been the subject of previous complaints. In June 2006, then-Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told federal regulators that they ought to investigate Jeeps after a 52-year-old man was run over and killed by a Grand Cherokee in a Connecticut car wash.
But Chrysler's Palese said Jeeps have been cleared of previous false acceleration claims by federal investigators: "Chrysler Group has not been immune from false SUA claims. In 2002, for example, NHTSA specifically declined to open an investigation regarding complaints of SUA with Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles. On September 20, 2002, NHTSA issued a Denial of Motor Vehicle Defect Petition, which stated: 'it appears that the predominant cause of sudden acceleration incidents involving the subject vehicles has been pedal misapplications.'"
Nevertheless, Jeeps seem to have acquired an especially fearsome reputation among car wash operators, like Dan of Palmyra, Pa.
"My family has owned and operated automatic car washes for nearly 50 years. Over the past 10 years, we have had half a dozen incidents with Jeep Grand Cherokees accelerating out of control," Dan said in a 2011 ConsumerAffairs posting. "Every time it has happened, our employees have maintained that the vehicle took off on them and they could not stop it. The first few times it happened, we assumed it was driver error but not anymore. There is case after case of this happening and nobody at Chrysler will do anything about it.
Engineers regard such accounts as anecdotal and say there is seldom sufficient evidence to pin the blame on a specific vehicle or manufacturer. NHTSA has proposed requiring a "brake-throttle override" but it's not clear how, or if, that would solve the problem of drivers stepping on the wrong pedal.
Despite such assurances, O'Grady blames the federal agency for accidents like the one in Yonkers.
"If the driver is telling the truth about sudden acceleration, then a 15-year-old girl is dead because of that agency's failure to investigate claims of sudden acceleration," she said.
File photoA New York woman who was involved in an October accident that killed a 15-year-old Irish girl blames the accident on unintended acceleration in...
Chrysler agrees to inspect -- but not recall -- Jeep SUVs
Critics say the Jeeps are prone to deadly fires in rear-end collisions
Chrysler Group says it has resolved its differences with federal safety regulators and will inspect as many as 2.7 million older-model Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs that critics say are prone to burst into flames after rear-end impacts. Chrysler had initially refused safety regulators' request that it recall the Jeeps -- an action that enraged consumer advocates and electrified the auto industry, which nearly always goes along with the government's recall requests.
In a brief statement today, the automaker said: "Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles.
"Chrysler Group regards safety as a paramount concern and does not compromise on the safety of our customers and their families."
The vehicles in question are 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys.
Chrysler later said the inspections would cover 1.56 million 1993-98 Grand Cherokee and 2002-07 Jeep Liberty models. Owners of 1999-2004 Grand Cherokee models will receive a letter informing them to have their vehicles inspected, but only if they have an aftermarket rear hitch installed.
Chrysler says that it will, if necessary, install a trailer hitch assembly along the rear of the vehicle to "better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts." The hitch would help deflect damage to the gas tank.
Whether that's adequate is open to question, critics said.
"We call on NHTSA to do crash tests of Chrysler's proposed remedy, just as it did with Ford's proposed remedy for the Pinto in 1978, to determine that the modified Jeeps meet the present Safety Standard just as the Pinto's had to the meet the new Safety Standard in 1978," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "If the modified Jeeps do not pass, we call on NHTSA to require Chrysler to develop a more effective remedy just as NHTSA did with the Pinto when it failed the first round of tests."
Ditlow also noted that Chrysler's "inspection" plan did not include older Grand Cherokees.
"In view of Chrysler's refusal to recall 1999-04 Grand Cherokees, we call on NHTSA to move to an initial determination of a defect in order to force their recall as well," he said.
Critics say that the location of the gas tank behind the rear axle of the SUVs makes them dangerously prone to deadly fires in rear-end collisions. But Chrysler has argued that the vehicles met all applicable safety regulations at the time they were manufactured. It has since changed the design and newer models have the gas tanks ahead of the rear axle.
In its agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Chrysler is not admitting that the vehicles were defective, since to do so would make it more difficult to defend against lawsuits filed by accident victims and their survivors.
"Chrysler Group’s analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group," the company said. "Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles."
The dispute over the SUVs' safety has been dragging on for years.
In 2011, consumer crusader Ralph Nader called on the company to recall the vehicles, calling them "a modern day Pinto for soccer moms with a fuel tank located dangerously behind the rear axle in the crush zone of an impact. "
"Now that Fiat has purchased Chrysler, it has the moral obligation to remedy the deadly fuel tank design in the Jeep Grand Cherokee before more innocent victims are burned today, not only in the United States, but also in Europe,” Nader said in a speech in Milan, Italy, where he had received an award from an automotive magazine.
The consumer push heated up in January 2013 when a Virginia woman who stood by helplessly as two people burned to death in their Jeep Grand Cherokee launched an online petition, hoping to motivate federal safety officials to order a recall. The petition has gathered nearly 128,000 signatures.
Jenelle Embrey of Linden, Va., was riding with her father on Interstate 81 in the Shenandoah Valley when traffic slowed to a halt on the chronically-congested highway.
Suddenly, they were hit from the rear by a Jeep that in turn had been rear-ended by a tractor-trailer truck that failed to stop. As flames began licking at the back of the Jeep, Embrey's father smashed the window and rescued a teen-aged boy but was driven back by flames before he could rescue another teen and their mother.
"Dad and I stood in front of the Jeep and watched in horror as the mom and teen burned to death. The saved teen watched the burning Jeep too as he tearfully screamed, 'Mom! Mom!'”
That accident happened near Winchester, Va., where iin 2011, another Jeep Grand Cherokee exploded into flames after being rear-ended by a pick-up truck at a stop light. Mark and Amanda Roe and their sons Caleb, 11, and Tyler, 4 died in that accident. The boys were killed by the impact. Their parents burned to death when the Jeep's gas tank burst into flames.
After the accident involving Embrey's car on I-81, she was sitting in a patrol car with the state trooper leading the investigation as he wrote up his report.
"The officer shook his head and said, 'That's the same vehicle that killed the Roe family,'" Embrey said. "He just sat and stared into the burned-out Jeep. Everybody knows this is happening. Why can't we do something about it?"
Besides the online petition, Embrey purchased space on several billboards in the Winchester area urging consumers to sign her petition.
Consumer advocates, Chrysler and NHTSA don't agree on how many fire deaths have occurred in the vehicles.
"The known toll now stands at 185 fatal fire crashes with 270 deaths and numerous burn injuries," Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said in a 2011 letter to Chrysler Group LLC Chairman Sergio Marchionne.
Embrey says the current count is 287 deaths in 202 fiery crashes.
Both Chrysler and NHTSA cited lower figures and claim the Jeeps have a safety record comparable to similar vehicles of the same age, assertion Ditlow disputes.
"The 1993-04 Grand Cherokee has a fatal crash fire occurrence rate that is about four times higher than SUVs made by other companies," Ditlow said in an October 2, 2009 petition to NHTSA asking for an immediate safety recall. "Comparing the 1993-04 Grand Cherokee with the exposed rear fuel tank to the 2005 and later Grand Cherokee with the shielded fuel tank in front of rear axle in the first five years of use for both vehicles so that it’s an apples to apples comparison, the defective old Grand Cherokee has a fatal fire rate six times higher than the new Grand Cherokee."
NHTSA issued a statement saying it was "pleased that Chrysler has agreed to take action to protect its customers and the driving public" but said it would "continue our investigation into this issue, pending the agency’s review of the documents provided by Chrysler in its recall action."
Consumers impacted by the safety recall and customer satisfaction campaign should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive notification from Chrysler, NHTSA added.
Chrysler Group says it has resolved its difference and will inspect as many as 2.7 million older-model Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs that critics sa...
Nader Urges Fiat to Recall 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees
Calls the Jeep "a modern day Pinto for soccer moms" prone to burst into flames
Consumer crusader Ralph
Nader is calling on Fiat to recall 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees,
saying they are "a modern day Pinto for soccer
moms with a fuel tank located dangerously behind the rear axle in
the crush zone of an impact. "
"Now that Fiat has purchased Chrysler, it has the
moral obligation to remedy the deadly fuel tank design in the
Jeep Grand Cherokee before more
innocent victims are burned today, not only in the United States,
but also in Europe,” Nader said in a speech in Milan, Italy, where he had received an
award from an automotive magazine.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
has been conducting an investigation of the problem and could order
a recall of 3 million of the vehicles. Chrysler has defended the
Jeeps and said they do not pose an unusual risk.
NHTSA opened its investigation in August 2010 after
finding that the fuel tank may have been linked to 22 crashes and
14 deaths. But the Nader-founded Center for Auto Safety says it has found 44
accidents in which the fuel tank has burst into flames, causing 64
"The victims include mothers like
Susan Kline who had just dropped her two children off at school and
was hit from behind by a 2004 Toyota Sienna when she slowed her
1996 Grand Cherokee for a car stopped in front of her," Nader said
in a statement on the Center for Auto Safety Web
"Her door jammed shut in the crash
and Mrs Kline struggled unsuccessfully to get out the passenger
side but was burned alive."
Nader cited two other fatal
accidents and said that in all three crashes, "the striking
vehicles had low front ends that submarined under the Jeep and into
the fuel system structure behind the rear axle."
While Fiat is not responsible for the design of the
1993-2004 Grand Cherokee, "It has the moral
obligation to remedy the deadly fuel tank design in the Jeep Grand
Cherokee before more innocent victims are burned today, not only in
the United States, but also in Europe where Chrysler marketed the
Grand Cherokee since 1994 in its Build Up for Export (BUX)
Nader noted that when
DaimlerChrysler owned the Jeep brand, Daimley ordered the fuel tank
moved to a safer location, beginning with 2005 models.
The subcompact Ford Pinto was
recalled by Ford in 1978 after Nader and other safety advocates
claimed it was unusually prone to burst into flames in rear-end
Nader Urges Fiat to Recall 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees. Calls the Jeep "a modern day Pinto for soccer moms" prone to burst into flames....