Chrysler airbag sensors to be replaced in 355,000 minivans

Chrysler Group LLC said it will replace a front airbag sensor in more than 355,500 minivans, starting in June.

The automaker’s “safety improvement campaign” covers 355,562 of its 2005-2006 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, including 259,437 in the United States and 72,035 in Canada.

The move comes after Chrysler found one of the front airbag crash sensors could crack under some environmental conditions and allow water to enter the sensor, potentially causing the sensor to become inoperative.

The company, which is controlled by Fiat S.p.A., said it is not aware of any complaints, injuries or property damage related to this issue.

Chrysler said the campaign is different from a recall because should problems occur, the vehicles would still meet crash standards outlined by U.S. safety regulators.

“If the front crash sensors become inoperative, the driver is immediately alerted by illumination of the airbag warning light,” Chrysler said in a document sent last week to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to notify the agency of its decision.

“Until the vehicle is repaired, the airbags may not provide the enhanced protection in the event of a crash,” Chrysler said.

The voluntary safety action comes at a time when Toyota Motor Corp. faces heightened scrutiny over its handling of a series of safety problems that rocked its reputation and results.