DETROIT -- Chrysler Group will expand efforts to reach the owners of as many as 1.6 million older Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys for a recall campaign after initial mailings drew in only 120,000 vehicles.
The automaker sent letters in August urging owners of 1993-98 Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Libertys to bring in their vehicles for inspection and possible installation of a free trailer hitch assembly.
The assembly is designed to protect the gasoline tank in the event of low-energy rear collisions.
As of earlier this month, 96,449 Liberty and 22,943 Grand Cherokee owners had responded to the recall letters and visited Chrysler dealerships for service, said Eric Mayne, a spokesman for Chrysler.
About 25 percent of the vehicles already brought in had adequate trailer hitch assemblies installed and required no additional service, Mayne said.
Chrysler is creating new websites specifically for the campaign, Mayne said, that will allow owners of the recalled vehicles to chat live with representatives and schedule their vehicle for the recall service at any Chrysler dealer.
The automaker is also launching an expanded effort to identify the current owners of the SUVs, Mayne said.
Chrysler agreed to install the trailer hitch assemblies as part of a 2013 settlement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after the agency requested a broader recall of those and other Jeeps.
NHTSA initially alleged that the Jeeps were more prone to fire in some high-energy rear-impact collisions in part because their fuel tanks were located behind the rear axle. Chrysler objected to the allegations and initially refused the recall request, but ultimately settled on the trailer hitch fix.
The automaker set aside $151 million from its earnings in 2013 to cover the cost of the campaign.
Earlier this year, NHTSA accused Chrysler of dragging its feet on carrying out the Jeep recall, saying that the automaker and its suppliers were not manufacturing enough parts to carry out the campaign in a timely manner.
Mayne said Chrysler and its dealers have more than 310,000 hitch assemblies available for Libertys and over 126,000 hitch assembles available for Grand Cherokees, with production continuing.