June 13, 2006

Conn. urges probe into Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee

BOSTON (Reuters) - Connecticut urged federal regulators on
Tuesday to probe possible acceleration flaws in late-model
Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokees after a 52-year-old man was run
over and killed by one in a car wash.

Connecticut authorities said they had received several
reports of Jeep Grand Cherokees suddenly accelerating out of
car washes while changing gears to drive from neutral.

Chrysler, a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG, should release
information on any history of Grand Cherokees suddenly or
unexpectedly accelerating, said state Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal and state Democratic Rep. Patricia Widlitz.

"The rate and severity of these sudden acceleration
incidents suggest a severe structural flaw -- certainly more
than simple coincidence," Blumenthal said in a statement.

"These incidents -- in one case killing a Connecticut man
-- call for aggressive and vigorous action to prevent another
needless, preventable tragedy," he said.

Chrysler said such incidents are usually caused by driver
error, specifically drivers who believe they are applying the
brakes when they are actually pressing the accelerator.

"Claims of sudden unintended acceleration have been made on
every make of automobile and are not limited to Jeep Grand
Cherokees," Chrysler said in a statement.

Blumenthal was joined earlier on Tuesday at a news
conference at a car wash in Milford, Connecticut, by Doug
Newman, who owns a chain of car washes in the state.

Newman said in a statement that he had seen the popular
sports utility vehicle suddenly accelerate at his car wash
chain several times.

"I have been operating multiple car wash locations for
almost 20 years. Over that period of time and the few million
or so cars washed, I have had only four sudden acceleration
incidents and all four of these incidents involved Jeep Grand
Cherokees," he said.

Blumenthal urged Chrysler to ask car wash owners, auto
repairers and insurers about reports of sudden or unexpected
accelerations by the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and to report the
findings to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said a 52-year-old Connecticut man was killed in
February when a Jeep Grand Cherokee accelerated suddenly and
ran him over at a car wash.

Chrysler said the vehicle involved in the accident was
inspected both by Chrysler and the police. "Neither inspection
produced any evidence of any safety defect in the 2005 Jeep
Grand Cherokee involved in this incident," it said.

Last year, Chrysler sold 213,584 Cherokee SUVs, up 17
percent from the previous year.

Chrysler recently recalled 111,700 Jeep Grand Cherokee
vehicles in the United States built in 2003 and 2004 to replace
heated-seat parts. Chrysler said the front seat may overheat
and result in a fire or injury to seat occupants.