In October 2013, Chrysler opened an investigation into reports of shifting delays in certain 2014 Fiat 500L vehicles manufactured between April 2013 to January 2014. Chrysler has determined that a safety defect exists in certain models and will be notifying owners to take their vehicle to a manufacturer approved repair facility to have the Gear Shift Module (GSM) replaced or re-flashed as necessary. Continue reading

Chrysler is reluctantly preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares owned by the United Auto Workers (UAW) trust after failing to reach an agreement on the value of the stock with the trust. Chrysler shares haven’t been publicly traded since 1998, when the company merged with Daimler AG who is now a majority owner of Italian automaker Fiat SpA. Continue reading

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation into Jeep vehicles with a high rate of fires after a rear impact accident, has been expanded to include three models of Jeep vehicles. Originally the investigation focused on 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees, but data collected shows that certain Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Liberty models of the same years, may also experience the same problems.

In an earlier letter to Fiat, CEO Sergio Marchionne referred to the Jeep Grand Cherokee as a modern day Pinto for soccer moms. The Pinto, which had the fuel tank located behind the rear axle, was also found to experience fires after rear impact accidents. According to the Center for Auto Safety, there have been 184 fatal fire crashes in model year 1993 to 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles and that 269 people have died as a result.

The Center for Auto Safety has been petitioning for a recall of the vehicles and said recently in an open letter to the NHTSA that “in NHTSA’s history of defect investigations and recalls, there has never been one where 4-year-old children in child restraints have burned to death in fire crashes until now. The letter continues to detail two instances where Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles were rear-ended and burst into flames, killing two children.

If the investigation leads to a recall, approximately 5.1 million vehicles could be involved. According to Bloomberg News, the recall could be one of the largest recalls in history and could be a significant expense for Chrysler and Fiat, who have depended on these models for profitable in recent years.

Chrysler is recalling a small number of 2012 Dodge Journey crossover and 2012 Fiat 500 subcompact cars for a possible contamination of the vehicles’ brake system. A report filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that approximately 350 vehicles built between October 24 to October 26, may have power steering fluid in their brake systems. The improper fluid could degrade seals throughout the system, eventually causing the system to fail. Owners wanting more information on the contamination problem can contact Chrysler at 1-800-853-1403.

It’s been a slow recovery, but on Thursday, Chrysler announced that they expect to pay back the $7.5 billion in Government loans by the end of next month. Although the details are still being negotiated, Chrysler hopes to sell new bonds to investors and use that money to help pay back the loans. This will allow Chrysler to strengthen its alliance with Fiat and revamp its operations to gain market shares.

According to Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with the research firm IHS Global Insight, “Tuning up their balance sheet and reducing debt will help Chrysler direct more money towards product development.” First on the list is to add more fuel efficient cars to its truck heavy lineup. The integration of Fiat and Chrysler will speed up the arrival of new Fiat based models to be sold to the American market. Without the psychological and financial drag of the loans Chrysler can start to slowly rebuild its company.

On Monday, Fiat announced they will be increasing ownership of Chrysler by 16% for a total 46% of the company. Once the auto manufacturers government loans have been paid, Fiat hopes to take a 51% majority stake in Chrysler as early as by the end of this year.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of both auto makers, says that this is an important step towards the integration of Fiat and Chrysler, started under two years ago. The result will be the creation of a global auto maker. They have chosen to speed up the pace to bring about the birth of a single group capable of international activities. Fiat outlined its plans after reaching an agreement with Chrysler’s shareholders, which include the U.S. Treasury Department, the United Auto Workers’ health trust fund and the Canadian government. The move shows that there is confidence in Chrysler turning around and becoming a profitable auto manufacturer. It does not mean Chrysler is fixed, it does show that Marchionne believes it is on track.

Ralph Nader is encouraging Fiat to Recall their recently acquired 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee line because of a vulnerable fuel tank design. The Center for Auto Safety encouraged an investigation in October saying that the fuel tank on these vehicles are not only poorly designed, but are installed behind the rear axle below the bumper which puts them at an increased impact risk. It was also found that the routing of the fuel filler hose increases the possibility of it being pulled out of the tank in a crash. Nader went as far as calling the Grand Cherokee “a modern day Pinto for the soccer mom.”

According to Chrysler, the fuel tanks are not defective. They say that according to their internal studies, the tanks on the Grand Cherokee are no more susceptible to fires in rear impact crashes than any other similar models from other companies.

Earlier I talked about Fords new hands free infotainment service, ‘Sync’, and how it is going to make our roads a little safer by giving drivers less distractions. Next week, Kia Motors Corp. will introduce ‘UVO’, a North American competitor to Ford Motor’s Sync. Ford’s exclusive contract with Microsoft expired at the end of 2008 and in May of that year, Microsoft announced that Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group would develop a voice-controlled infotainment system for the North American market. Fiat Auto Group also uses Microsoft technology to power its infotainment service, called Blue&Me.

Like Sync, UVO is based on the Microsoft Auto software platform, known as the Windows Embedded Auto Software Platform. Spokesmen for Kia and Microsoft say the Kia version will have features unique to the South Korean automaker. UVO will debut on an unnamed Kia vehicle sometime in 2010. The automaker will not release specifics until it formally introduces UVO at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.