Jayne O'Donnell , USA TODAY
It helps to have a fix. And, Chrysler would say, a problem.
In a week that it didn't need any more negative attention on its Jeep brand, Chrysler says it will do two Jeep recalls totaling 630,000 vehicles worldwide. The announcement comes just two days after Chrysler refused a government request to recall 2.7 million older-model Jeeps
Chrysler said Thursday that it will recall more than 409,000 Jeep Patriot and Compass small SUVs around the world from the 2010 and 2012 model years to fix air bag and seat-belt problems.
It's also recalling 221,000 Jeep Wranglers worldwide from 2012 and 2013 to fix transmission fluid leaks, according to documents posted Thursday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
In the Patriots and Compasses, a software error could cause late deployment of the side air bags and seat-belt tightening mechanisms, and that could cause injuries in rollover crashes. Dealers will repair the software for free starting in July.
For Wranglers with 3.6-liter V-6 engines, Chrysler says a power steering fluid line can wear a hole in the transmission oil cooler line. The SUVs can leak fluid, damaging automatic transmissions. Dealers will inspect the lines for free and replace them or install a protective sleeve. The recall begins in July.
No crashes or injuries have been reported in either case, Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said Thursday.
The Compass and Patriot recall includes 254,400 vehicles in the U.S., 45,400 in Canada and another 109,400 outside North America, according to Chrysler.
The Wrangler recall includes 181,000 vehicles in the U.S. as well as 18,400 in Canada, 3,300 in Mexico and another 18,400 outside North America.
Concerned customers in either case can call Chrysler at (800) 853-1403.
On Tuesday, Chrysler refused a Monday night request from NHTSA to recall 2.7 million older Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs because the fuel tanks are defective and increase the risk of fires in rear end crashes. Chrysler says the vehicles are safe and met federal safety standards when they were built. NHTSA is not contesting that the SUVs meet their safety standards.
The government, however, says the 1993-2004 Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Liberty models have a higher rate of fires in rear end crashes and a gas tank that is positioned in such a way that it is a safety defect. The tanks are mounted behind the rear axle -- where they are in other vehicles, including the Ford Crown Victoria.
It is very rare for a car company to refuse the government's request to do a recall. The negotiations are usually conducted out of the public eye and lead to what's known as a "voluntary recall." But Chrysler says that NHTSA's conclusions are based on flawed data. The company says it's still working with NHTSA to resolve the issue, which could signal its willingness to work out some sort of customer satisfaction campaign that isn't called a recall. If the two sides don't agree, the issue could wind up in court.
One potential issue is how the gas tank could be made safer. Short of the extremely expensive actions of moving the tanks or buying back the vehicles, only one other potential solution has been discussed. The Center for Auto Safety's Clarence Ditlow, whose petition led to the NHTSA investigation, says he believes metal skid plates on about 10-15% of the 2.7 million vehicles help prevent fires by shielding the tanks as long as they have a safety value to prevent fuel leaks if filler hoses come loose. Chrysler, however, says these plates are only designed to prevent debris during off roading from damaging vehicle parts - not to protect the tanks in rear end crashes.
The company previously refused a NHTSA request in 1996, when the agency asked it to recall 91,000 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus cars for an alleged seat belt defect. NHTSA sued the company and won in federal court. But in 1998, an appeals court reversed the decision, saying NHTSA had unfairly held Chrysler to a new standard.
While Chrysler says there are no safety defects with the older Jeeps, Mayne said defects were identified on the newer Jeeps and the company did what it was supposed to. It recalled them.