Chrysler Group LLC, majority-owned by Italy's
), is reluctant to recall about 2.7 million units of its Jeep
Grand Cherokee from 1993 through 2004 and Jeep Liberty from 2002
through 2007 model years, even when the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter asking the company
for a voluntarily recall.
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Chrysler denied on the ground that the letter is based on
"incomplete analysis of the underlying data" and the vehicles are
completely safe. The company revealed that it has met all federal
safety standards when the vehicles were manufactured; as a
result, they are "among the safest vehicles of their era."
NHTSA started investigating on the issue in Aug 2010 at the
request of an advocacy group based in Washington, DC. The agency
found that if hit from the rear, Jeeps' fuel tanks can leak fuel
and cause fires if there is an ignition source.
According to NHTSA, the problem is causing due to the placement
of the tanks behind the rear axle and their height above the
road. At that time, the agency found 10 crashes and 13 deaths
that were likely caused by the rear-end crashes involving Grand
Later on, NHTSA found about 32 crashes and fires in Grand
Cherokees that caused 44 deaths due to the design defect. It also
came to know about at least five rear crashes in Liberty models,
causing seven deaths.
In fact, the agency inferred that the older Grand Cherokees and
Libertys have fatal crash rates that are about twofold compared
with similar vehicles, which include
) Chevrolet S10 Blazer,
) 4Runner, Isuzu Rodeo, Isuzu Trooper, Mitsubishi Montero, Suzuki
Sidekick and Suzuki XL-7.
However, Chrysler concluded that it received low number reports
of rear-impact crashes over the last 30 years caused by fire or a
fuel leak in the affected Jeeps. Besides, retrofitting the older
Jeeps with repositioned tanks would be time consuming and costly.
Chrysler has to respond to the NHTSA letter until June 18 and the
agency is waiting for the company to review their decision. The
company must explain to NHTSA if it does not want to recall the
If the agency is not satisfied, it can reinforce the request with
a court order. The agency can also fine the company for recalling
the vehicles very late like it did to Toyota. These are the
reasons companies agree to make voluntary recalls without any
delay. They also face the danger of bad publicity.
This is not the first time Chrysler refused a recall request from
NHTSA. In 1996, the company refused to recall 91,000 Dodge
Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus cars due to a seat belt defect, which
led the agency to sue them in federal court. However, the agency
lost the case against Chrysler in an appeals court in 1998.