Connecticut urges probe into Jeep Grand Cherokee

UPDATED: 6/13/2006 3:58 P.M. BOSTON -- Connecticut urged federal regulators on Tuesday to probe possible acceleration flaws in late-model Jeep Grand Cherokees after a 52-year-old man was run over and killed by one in a car wash.

Connecticut authorities said they had received several reports of Jeep Grand Cherokees suddenly accelerating out of car washes while changing gears to drive from neutral.

The Chrysler group should release information on any history of Grand Cherokees suddenly or unexpectedly accelerating, said state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and state Democratic Rep. Patricia Widlitz.

"The rate and severity of these sudden acceleration incidents suggest a severe structural flaw -- certainly more than simple coincidence," Blumenthal said in a statement.

"These incidents -- in one case killing a Connecticut man -- call for aggressive and vigorous action to prevent another needless, preventable tragedy," he said.

The Chrysler group said such incidents are usually caused by driver error, specifically drivers who believe they are applying the brakes when they are actually pressing the accelerator.

"Claims of sudden unintended acceleration have been made on every make of automobile and are not limited to Jeep Grand Cherokees," the automaker said in a statement.

Blumenthal was joined earlier on Tuesday at a news conference at a car wash in Milford, Connecticut, by Doug Newman, who owns a chain of car washes in the state.

Newman said in a statement that he had seen the popular SUV suddenly accelerate at his car wash chain several times.

"I have been operating multiple car wash locations for almost 20 years. Over that period of time and the few million or so cars washed, I have had only four sudden acceleration incidents and all four of these incidents involved Jeep Grand Cherokees," he said.

Blumenthal urged the Chrysler group to ask car wash owners, auto repairers and insurers about reports of sudden or unexpected accelerations by the Grand Cherokee and to report the findings to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

He said a 52-year-old Connecticut man was killed in February when a Grand Cherokee accelerated suddenly and ran him over at a car wash.

The Chrysler group said the vehicle involved in the accident was inspected both by the automaker and the police. "Neither inspection produced any evidence of any safety defect in the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee involved in this incident," it said.

Last year, the Chrysler group sold 213,584 Grand Cherokees, up 17.1 percent from the previous year, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

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