Investigators review models

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The government has opened an investigation of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans after receiving complaints about failure of front air bag crash sensors.

Models made by Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai Motor Co., meanwhile, are also under separate investigations for potential defects, officials said Monday.

In the Chrysler cases, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a posting on its Web site that it had received five complaints alleging failure in 2005 model year minivans of the front air bag crash sensors, which are located behind the front bumper.

The complaints said dealers replaced the front crash sensors after receiving questions about the air bag warning lamp illuminating. Field reports indicate the sensors may have failed because of corrosion.

The preliminary investigation involves about 410,000 vehicles.

DaimlerChrysler AG spokesmen did not respond to phone messages left Monday.

NHTSA said it opened a probe into the 2000-2001 models of the Mercedes-Benz S Class sedans after receiving reports that the instrument panel, which includes the vehicle's speedometer and fuel gauge, failed to light up. The inquiry involves about 72,000 vehicles.

Rob Moran, a Mercedes-Benz spokesman, said the investigation into the S Class sedans was in its early stages and he did not have additional information.

The instrument panel, which also holds the turn signal indicators and warning lights, is supposed to light up whenever the ignition key is turned on. The government said it has received seven reports alleging failure, but there have been no crashes or injuries linked to the issue.

In the Hyundai case, the government is looking into allegations that the tire valve stems are failing in the 2002-2003 Sonata sedans, leading to tire deflation. The probe involves about 93,000 vehicles.

The complaints involved tires that had been replaced and then deflated while traveling at highway speeds. Hyundai will comply with NHTSA in the investigation, spokesman Miles Johnson said.

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