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China urges Chrysler to address Jeep Wrangler fire risk

A Chrysler badge is pictured on a new car at a dealership in Vienna, Virginia April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China has urged carmaker Chrysler Group LLC, majority-owned by Italy's Fiat SpA (MIL:F), to correct possible defects in its Jeep Wrangler, after vehicles imported into the country were found to have an elevated fire risk, China's quality watchdog said on Monday.

China had banned Jeep Wrangler imports in early 2011 due to serious fire risks associated with defective gearboxes, but lifted the restrictions after Chrysler replaced vehicle parts to address the issue, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement on its website.

Recent inspections by the agency, however, found the car still had relatively high fire risks, the statement said.

Chrysler should "take immediate precautionary measures so as to be responsible to consumers", the watchdog said. It also advised Wrangler owners to thoroughly check their vehicles and avoid driving in extreme conditions.

Chrysler is actively cooperating with the quality watchdog and is also in active discussion on technical issues, a China-based company representative said in response to the agency's statement.

Beijing is taking a harsher stance towards products, both local and imported, that are deemed substandard amid a spate of scandals involving everything from tainted milk powder to fake donkey meat.

Global automakers including Volkswagen AG (VOW3.DE), General Motors Co (GM) and Ford Motor Co (NYS:F) recalled a combined 5.3 million vehicles in China in 2013, a 66 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Miral Fahmy)