Fiat Chrysler accused of concealing defect in Jeep Grand Cherokee

Thu Jun 23, 2016 7:31pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jeep Grand Cherokee owners on Thursday filed suit in California against Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI: Quote), accusing the automaker of concealing a shifter design defect linked to driverless rollaway accidents, including this week's death of "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin.

The class-action complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles, also alleges the automaker tried to cover up hundreds of related accidents that caused injuries and property damage and has dragged its feet in furnishing a remedy for the issue.

The plaintiffs are seeking restitution for the diminished resale value of their Grand Cherokees stemming from the "raft of negative publicity" surrounding the recent disclosure of the rollaway problem.

"In light of the stigma attached to those vehicles by (Fiat Chrysler's) conduct, they are now worth significantly less than they otherwise would be," the lawsuit states.

Company spokesman Michael Palese said the automaker has not yet been served with the lawsuit and it would be inappropriate to comment before reviewing the case.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV issued a recall in April for 1.1 million cars and SUVs worldwide, most of them in the United States, because the vehicles could roll away after drivers exit them.

The recall applies to 811,000 vehicles in the United States, covering 2014-2015 model years of the Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicle, and 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans.

The lawsuit came as the company announced that software upgrades for all 1.1 million recalled vehicles would be available by the end of this month.   Continued...

The Jeep logo is seen on the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee on the showroom at the Massey-Yardley Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram automobile dealership in Plantation, Florida October 8, 2013.   REUTERS/Joe Skipper