Chrysler Announces Action to Repair Airbag Sensors in 2005-2006 Minivans

Chrysler Group LLC has announced that it will begin replacing potentially defective front airbag sensors in more than 355,500 minivans in June.

The automaker has termed the action a safety improvement campaign and says it will include 355,562 2005 through 2006 Dodge Grand Caravans and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. Of those, 259,437 were sold in the U.S. and another 72,035 were sold in Canada.

Chrysler’s intentional avoidance of the emotionally charged recall is reminiscent of Ford Motor Company’s recent announcement of its own customer satisfaction program to update software associated with the regenerative braking systems of 17,600 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids.

The company said its decision to initiate the action was made after discovering that the sensor housings can crack under certain environmental conditions, allowing moisture to enter and potentially render the sensors inoperative.

The automaker said that it is not aware of any injury or property damage complaints relating to the problem.

Although logistically identical, Chrysler drew a distinction between the safety improvement campaign and a typical recall. The difference, according to Chrysler, is that the vehicles involved in this action would still meet U.S. safety crash standards even in the event of a sensor failure.

In a document sent to regulators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chrysler said, “If the front crash sensors become inoperative, the driver is immediately alerted by illumination of the airbag warning light,” and went on to say, “Until the vehicle is repaired, the airbags may not provide the enhanced protection in the event of a crash.”

Last week executives of Toyota Motor Corporation and federal regulators underwent aggressive questioning by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concerning alleged failures in dealing with safety defects in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

At one point in his testimony, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood indicated his agency and the NHTSA will step up their enforcement efforts, and automakers appear eager to deal with any and all potential safety issues before they require involvement by federal regulators.

Ford’s voluntary customer satisfaction program was announced following an announcement that the NHTSA was initiating a formal investigation into similar problems reported in the 2010 Toyota Prius.

Last Tuesday, the day the House committee hearings began, Hyundai Motor Company announced its recall of 47,000 Sonata sedans suspected of having faulty front door-lock mechanisms.

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