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Ghost in the Machines

Posted in Posts, and Syllabus Schedule

Chrysler has issued a recall in Jeep Grand Cherokees and Commander from year 2005-2010 and 2006-2010, respectively. The trouble appears to be in the electrical system that controls the shifting components of the car. While, driving the car is prone to shift into neutral by itself. Chrysler has thus issued a free and optional recall after 26 crashes have been blamed on the error.

Although a boring story on the surface, this article raises some interesting questions, like the fact that it took 26 confirmed wrecks to fix the problem, 26 that is a huge number in terms of in danged human life, if not from the factory standpoint. The other question I wonder is how the recall affects Chrysler’s image in the public’s eyes especially since this is a huge time of growth and the fact they still have the bailout over their head. At this point, the company needs to be extra careful in craftsmanship as well as public image.



  1. Cars have a “black box” but the Jeep’s may not capture all the data needed – and in many accidents no one looks at it. In addition shifting to neutral ought to be relatively innocuous, not a source of accidents unless a car gets rear-ended.

    Diagnosing the cause however is not straightforward. Did the driver shift into neutral for some reason? That may be what the black box shows. Once Chrysler gets a hint that there may be a problem, they then have to go back to warranty and repair records to see if there are unreported accidents or incidents that didn’t lead to an accident. With 6-7 years of vehicles at potential risk, that’s a lot of data to sort through, and bankruptcy wasn’t kind to continuity.

    As to bankruptcy, is the “New” Chrysler liable for pre-bankruptcy vehicle problems? The answer may well be “no” – the new Chrysler bought the assets of the old Chrysler, there’s no legal continuity. However, the details of the bankruptcy judge’s rulings are a matter of public record, so it should be fairly straightforward to find out. Even if they don’t have any obligation, it may nevertheless be good PR to pay something to get vehicles fixed…

    May 15, 2013
  2. gradyb13

    I would also add that for every recall (and however many accidents the problem caused), there has been a problem which caused far more destruction.That doesn’t mean that recalls, like the Jeep you mention, don’t matter, it just means that things have to get pretty bad for people to start noticing. Google “Ford Explorer and Firestone” to get an idea of when they do.

    May 15, 2013
  3. tyler

    Another thing to consider is when making a recall decision not only the explicit cost of the repairs is considered. Unfortunate as it may be, the “cost” of damage to a brands reputation is also considered. Silly though the connection may be, I think back to the movie fightclub, the characters job was to estimate the cost of a recall (in both explicit and implicit terms) vs the cost of lawsuits to settle legal actions, human life was not a factor. Sadly enough, the industry does look at recalls in this way (although maybe not to quite that extreme.)

    May 17, 2013

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