FEDERAL agency receives more complaints of safety problems with Jeep Grand Cherokees

Friday, August 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A federal safety agency investigating possible problems with gear shifts in Jeep Grand Cherokees has received dozens more complaints and a report of one death, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched the probe last month into the complaints the sport utility vehicle suddenly shifted out of gear while idling in park. At the time, the agency said it received at least 48 complaints but no deaths.

The Times reported Friday that the NHTSA has now received 144 complaints of what it calls ''inadvertent rollaway in reverse.'' In addition to the one death reported to the NHTSA, the Times said it has confirmed two others involving the Jeep model from police records, court documents and interviews.

The agency's investigation covers 1.3 million 1995 through 1999 model Grand Cherokees.

Drivers have said the Cherokees rolled away on their own in parking lots or crossing roads and crashed into trees and buildings, according to the NHTSA files. The incidents have led to an estimated 100 accidents and about 40 injuries, the Times said.

DaimlerChrysler, the vehicle's manufacturer, said it is cooperating with the investigation. The company has settled at least four lawsuits arising from the accidents but hasn't acknowledged any liability, the Times reported.

``We don't hesitate to alert our customers when we become alarmed over something,'' spokesman Mike Aberlich said. ``But you have to be careful not to overreact as well ... You look for patterns, and so far we haven't seen any.''