Chrysler Recalls 895,000 SUVs for Fire Risk in Vanity Mirrors

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Courtesy of the Associated Press

c.2014 New York Times News Service

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.

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 NHTSA 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.

In other actions:

— The agency is investigating whether a rusted heat shield could jam the steering shaft on about 500,000 Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Mercury Marauder sedans from the 2004-07 model years. The agency said in a report that it had received five complaints from owners, including one filed in April that said the steering had locked up on a highway entrance ramp. “I could not turn the wheel. Before I knew it I hit the curb and then rolled over approximately three times down an embankment,” the owner wrote, also claiming a disabling injury.

— Honda is recalling about 14,000 Acura ILX and ILX Hybrid sedans from the 2013-14 model years because the headlight reflectors could be damaged by heat, diminishing their light output, according to a report posted on the agency’s website.

— General Motors is recalling almost 29,000 Saab 9-3 convertibles from the 2004-11 model years to repair the driver’s side seat belt, the automaker said in a report to the agency. The automaker said the automatic tensioning retractor that keeps the belt taught could break. At the time the vehicles were assembled, Saab was a subsidiary of GM, which no longer the case.