April 9, 2013 at 5:01 PM ET
Chrysler is recalling 120,000 of its full-size models because of problems with airbag warning lights that trigger for no apparent reason.
It’s the latest in a series of industry-wide safety-related problems involving faulty wiring that reflect the increasingly complexity of today’s high-tech automobiles. In some cases, the issues have been mere inconveniences, but in other instances the problems can lead to serious safety problems, such as vehicle fires and brake intervention systems that trigger for no obvious reason, leading to a potential loss of vehicle control.
The new Chrysler recall involves 119,500 of its Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, as well as the Dodge Challenger muscle coupe. The airbag warning lights appear to trigger for no reason and do not mean that they have become deactivated.
The maker says it was advised of the problem though customer complaints and adds there have been no reports of injuries or accidents. It blames faulty wiring for the problem.
The recall covers vehicles produced between April through December of 2011, some marketed as 2011 models, others during the 2012 model-year
Owners will be notified of the problem starting this month and repairs will be made at no charge. The maker also plans to reimburse owners who have previously paid for warning light repairs.
The 2013 version of the Dodge Challenger was subject to a separate wiring-related recall announced less than a month ago. In this case, faulty wiring harnesses can overheat and lead to a fire. The maker went so far as to warn owners to park their vehicles until repairs could be made.
About the same time, Honda announced a short-circuit in a stability control unit on as many as 250,000 different vehicles could cause their brakes to briefly operate without any input from the driver.
Toyota, meanwhile, began the year with a recall of 752,000 vehicles due to a short-circuit that could could cause the airbags on some Corolla and Matrrix models, as well as the front seat pre-tensioners to inadvertently deploy. The Japanese giant last year recalled several million products because of a faulty driver’s-side window switch that could lead to smoke or even vehicle fires.
Industry analysts note that today’s automobiles have become high-tech systems that rival – and typically exceed – the complexity of the most advanced consumer electronic devices. Where problems with a faulty circuit board on a smartphone or audio system might be an inconvenience or lead the customer to swap out the device at a store, the greater risks faced with flawed vehicle control circuits has been leading to a steady increase in related recalls.
By comparison, problems with more conventional mechanical defects, such as engine failures, appear to be on the decline, according to research by J.D. Power and Associates.
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