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NHTSA Begin Jeep Investigation

July 4, 2001

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating complaints that Jeep Grand Cherokees may have a defect that causes them to suddenly switch into reverse, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The federal agency has received at least 48 complaints of what it calls ``inadvertent rollaway in reverse″ involving 1995 to 1999 Grand Cherokees, according to an agency document cited by the newspaper.

No deaths have been reported, but the incidents have led to 32 crashes and 14 injuries, the Times said. Most of the incidents allegedly occurred while the sport utility vehicles were idling with the gearshift in the ``park″ position.

The paper said documents refer to one incident in which a motorist’s Cherokee pinned him against a pickup truck, and another in which a woman’s leg was crushed.

Other drivers have complained of Cherokees taking off on their own in parking lots or crossing roads and crashing into trees and buildings.

``Obviously, we’ve seen a trend that’s of enough concern that we’ve decided to open an investigation,″ NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson told the Times. ``We don’t want to prejudge it, but it warrants a closer look.″

Dominick Infante, safety spokesman for DaimlerChrysler, which builds the Grand Cherokee, told the Times the company is cooperating. He said the vehicle has been redesigned, and models since 1999 have a new type of transmission.

``We don’t believe there is an issue with the vehicle, but we will investigate,″ Infante said.

Chrysler officials did not return calls from The Associated Press Tuesday night.

The NHTSA’s preliminary probe affects about 1.3 million of the popular SUVs.

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