The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened investigations into two popular Chrysler vehicles -- the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV and 2009-10 model-year Ram 1500 pickups.
The regulatory agency said Monday it has received 12 complaints about the rear wheels locking up on Ram 1500 pickups, according to documents on its website. The problem caused a loss of control in four complaints received by the agency.
In the Grand Cherokee, NHTSA said power steering fluid can leak and catch fire when it drips on hot surfaces.
"Chrysler Group takes seriously all customer complaints and is cooperating fully with NHTSA," the company said.
The Grand Cherokee investigation potentially affects 106,803 SUVs while the Ram investigation potentially affects 230,000 pickups.
The Ram and the Grand Cherokee are among Chrysler's most-popular models and have helped the automaker gain market share.
Sales of the Grand Cherokee have increased 38.2% through the first half of this year to 75,117. Sales of Ram pickups have increased 23.8% to 138,581 through the first half of this year. Not all investigations lead to recalls.
A preliminary investigation typically takes about four months. During that time, the agency evaluates consumer complaints, crashes, injuries, warranty claims and other data. It also gives the manufacturer an opportunity to present its views. Afterward, NHTSA can drop the case, or upgrade the action to an engineering analysis, which can generally take up to a year.
In June, NHTSA upgraded and expanded an investigation into Jeep SUVs.
NHTSA is looking at the placement of the fuel tank in 1993-2004 model-year Jeep Grand Cherokees to evaluate the risk of a fire or explosion in rear-end collisions. Sometimes automakers issue voluntary recalls before NHTSA sends a recall request letter to the company.
Ford announced a voluntary recall last week for 11,500 2013 Ford Escape SUVs with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine in the U.S. and Canada.
The Dearborn automaker told customers to stop driving their vehicles and to immediately contact their dealers after three reported fires: one from a Canadian customer, the other two from Ford employees en route from the Louisville, Ky., plant to a shipping area. No one was injured.
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