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Will Cruze, Wrangler Fire Investigations Burn GM and Chrysler?

Monday, 2 Apr 2012 | 11:11 AM ET
2011 Chevy Cruze
AP
2011 Chevy Cruze

Where there's smoke, you usually find fire. For some owners of Jeep Wrangler and Chevy Cruze models the fire is in the engine.

It's a scary scenario and one that has happened enough times to prompt the Federal government to investigate what's causing the fires.

177,000 2011 Chevy Cruze models and 100,000 2010 Jeep Wranglers could be impacted by what investigators find. While there have been no injuries or deaths linked to the fires, the stories from those who have filed complaints are scary.

Will there be recalls? It's too early to tell.

But whenever the Feds open an investigation into a potential defect in a popular car, there's one question that always pops up: how much will it hurt the model and/or brand?

Most of the time, recalls do little lasting damage.

But there are other cases (Toyota sudden acceleration, Chevy Volt battery fires) where sales suffer because potential buyers get spooked. Whatever the reason, some NHTSA investigations touch a nerve with the public.

Cars catching on fire have the potential to hurt sales, but only if the defect (if there is one) is deemed to be widespread. In this case, the feds are still trying to figure out what caused these fires.

Two months from now this story may flame out and be nothing. However, whenever you bring up cars catching on fire, the potential for automakers to get burned is real.

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___________________________ Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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