FCA recalls 2M cars for air bag, seat belt problem

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC is recalling nearly 2 million cars worldwide with air bags that might fail to deploy in crashes and seat belts that might not sufficiently tighten to protect passengers. The action came after three drivers were killed in accidents and five others were injured.

The company said Thursday the vehicles being called back are equipped with a particular occupant-restraint control module and certain wire routing. When those factors are present, the air bags and seat-belt pretensioners could fail to deploy in certain collisions.

Fiat Chrysler said it no longer uses the problem components. The company did not make available details on the fatal crashes.

A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to comment on the recall campaign.

Fiat Chrysler said 1.4 million of the cars being recalled are in the U.S. The company said another 142,959 are in Canada, 81,901 are in Mexico and 284,051 are outside North America.

The company said U.S. models that are affected by the recall include the 2010 Chrysler Sebring; 2011-14 Chrysler 200; 2010-12 Dodge Caliber; 2010-14 Dodge Avenger; and 2010-14 Jeep Patriot and Compass.

The recall in Mexico also includes the 2010 Chrysler Cirrus and the non-North America recall includes the 2012-13 Lancia Flavia midsize car.

The automaker noted that its latest recall is not related to the widespread callback of faulty air bag inflators that were made by Japanese supplier Takata, which has has grown to include nearly 70 million inflators in cars made by 17 manufacturers, including Fiat Chrysler.

The company noted the Takata recalls are due to air bag inflators that can explode when deployed; the latest Fiat Chrysler callback is related to air bags that might not deploy at all in a crash.

Fiat Chrysler’s recall follows a massive callback announced Friday by General Motors Co. for 3.64 million vehicles in the U.S. with faulty air-bag software. That software also may prevent front air bags from deploying. The defect in GM cars are linked to one fatality and three injuries.

Jack Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book, said drivers should move quickly to get their Fiat Chrysler vehicles repaired, noting the large scale of the company’s callback.

“A recall of 1.4 million vehicles for a defect that could potentially be life-threatening is a serious event,” Nerad said in a statement emailed to The Detroit News. “Although problems are only likely to occur in very specific circumstances, the danger is real enough that all vehicles affected by the recall should be inspected and fixed. Delay in getting the proper alterations made could have disastrous consequences, since three fatalities have already resulted from this defect.”

Owners can call Fiat Chryslers’ U.S. Customer Care Center at (800) 853-1403 for more information.

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing