U.S. regulators upgrade Jeep Liberty airbag probe

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – U.S. safety regulators have upgraded an investigation into almost 387,000 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicles for potential inadvertent airbag deployment, increasing the possibility of a recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was upgrading its investigation of the 386,873 Chrysler SUVs from model years 2002 and 2003 to an engineering analysis, a step in a process that could lead to a recall if regulators determine that a manufacturer needs to address a safety issue.

In two separate other NHTSA filings, Mazda Motor Corp. is recalling more than 52,000 older Tribute SUVs for potential brake fluid leaks, and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz has begun investigating consumer complaints of fuel odor that may be a leak in about 8,000 older E55 AMG sedans and wagons.

For the Chrysler issue, NHTSA said it had identified 87 reports of inadvertent driver or passenger front airbag deployment, resulting in 50 alleged injuries, including burns, cuts and bruises to the upper body, according to documents filed online.

Forty-two of the 87 incidents involved the driver front airbag deploying without a crash, occurring at vehicle startup and while driving on the road, according to NHTSA. The remaining 45 involved both the driver and passenger front airbags, NHTSA said.