The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Photo : Jeep)
Chrysler has engaged in a war of words with a Swedish automotive magazine over the safety performance of the Jeep Grand Cherokee; and the war has taken a bizarre turn, with accusations of lying couched - on Chrysler's part - in a 1970s movie reference.
Since the 1970s, the magazine Teknikens Värld has performed evasive maneuvers with cars that it calls "the moose test". Failing the moose test can garner a model negative publicity well beyond Sweden's borders; and when the first generation Mercedes A-Class overturned during its moose test in 1997, Mercedes recalled the car and put in considerable work ensuring it wouldn't fail the test again.
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And so when Teknikens Värld announced that the current-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee had also failed its moose test, Chrysler took notice - and umbrage.
On Chrysler's blog is a posting put up this month by Gualberto Ranieri, Chrysler's senior vice president of corporate communications. The posting is titled "The Sting of Truth" and starts by declaring that the magazine's "scurrilous accusation" against the Grand Cherokee reminds him of 1973's The Sting.
"Both involve cheating," Ranieri says. "But unlike the movie, the magazine won't win any Oscars and the Swedish characters can't match the professional genius of Paul Newman and Robert Redford."
The moose test involves a driver, four passengers, and a cargo of sandbags setting out on a course to test a vehicle's ability to safely avoid an object that suddenly crosses its path (apparently a moose is a common potential Swedish obstacle).
When the Grand Cherokee Overland 3.0 CRD V6 swerved to avoid the obstacle at 39.5 miles per hour, Teknikens Värld says, it went up on two wheels and only the skills of the driver kept it from overturning.
The magazine says it habitually tests a vehicle in tandem with two other vehicles to serve as "reference cars". In this case, the other vehicles were the Volkswagen Touareg and the Volvo XC90, both of which performed adequately. The magazine further notes that it ran the same test in 2005 with the previous generation of Grand Cherokee, and that that vehicle also performed without incident.
The magazine maintains that all the Grand Cherokee's electronic stability control and anti-rollover system were switched on when the test was made, that the tire pressure was at its recommended level and that the center of gravity was kept as low as possible.
The argument between the car company and the magazine revolves chiefly around the weight of the SUV used in the test. Chrysler claims that the magazine overloaded the car. The magazine insists that the car was loaded to the capacity allowed by the Swedish Transport Authority based on information supplied by Chrysler. And if the vehicle was overloaded, the magazine adds, it is because its curb weight is underestimated by Chrysler, which the magazine claimed to find out when it put the Grand Cherokee on a scale of its own.
Chrysler claims that the magazine didn't contacted it regarding the study until after the findings were printed. The magazine says that it repeatedly contacted the car company, and never heard back.
Chrysler sent engineers to the magazine's course so that they could be there when the car was retested.
"This time the Grand Cherokee was loaded properly. (Because we were watching, perhaps?) And the atypical outcome observed previously could not be repeated. Despite numerous attempts," Ranieri says.
It's true that the wheels didn't leave the surface, Teknikens Värld concedes - but the wheels were torn from the rims.
"A total of seven times, the tires were pried off the wheels, a very serious error that we have only seen once before - with Skoda Superb in 2010," the magazine says. "When a tire is pried off the wheel the rim's edge is exposed, which get stuck in the asphalt and may lead to a snatch and a roll over."
Ranieri notes that The Sting is divided into sections, with names such as "The Set-Up", and says that this phrase is a good one to describe the Swedish magazine's treatment of his company's car.
Another section title he considers apt is "The Shut-Out", which is what he says Teknikens Värld did to the truth and to fair reporting.
"Expect the magazine to maintain its innocence, even though its editors have been caught red-handed," he says. "Because the truth doesn't just hurt. It stings."