The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested Chrysler to voluntarily recall 2.7 million Jeeps. The government says Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993 through 2004 and Jeep Liberty from 2002 through 2007 are at risk of a fuel tank fire in a rear-end collision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is asking Chrysler to voluntarily recall the vehicles.
Chrysler Group LLC, said in a statement that the Jeeps are safe and it "does not intend to recall the vehicles." Such a refusal by an auto company is rare. NHTSA can order a recall but needs a court order to enforce it. The NHTSA administrator says, "Our data shows that these vehicles may contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety." Additionally, he said he hopes the company will reconsider this refusal.
NHTSA found that the Jeeps' fuel tanks may fail when struck from the rear. They may leak fuel and cause fires if there's an ignition source. The placement of the tanks behind the rear axle and their height above the road is a design defect, according to the NHTSA's letter to Chrysler last week.
Customarily, automakers agree to recall requests. This also helps to avoid bad publicity. In the last three years, Chrysler has conducted 52 recalls.
In 1996, Chrysler refused a NHTSA request when NHTSA asked for the recall of 91,000 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus cars for an alleged seat belt defect. NHTSA sued the company and won in federal court. However, in 1998, an appeals court reversed the decision, saying NHTSA had unfairly held Chrysler to a new standard.
Regarding the current Chrysler recall controversy, NHTSA found at least 32 rear-impact crashes and fires in Grand Cherokees that caused 44 deaths. Also found were at least five rear crashes in Libertys, which caused seven deaths. The agency calculated that the older Grand Cherokees and Libertys have fatal crash rates that are nearly double those of similar vehicles. Jeeps were compared with the Chevrolet S10 Blazer, Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner, Isuzu Rodeo, Isuzu Trooper, Mitsubishi Montero, Suzuki Sidekick and Suzuki XL-7.
NHTSA asks Chrysler to recall the vehicles and "implement a remedy action that improves their performance in rear-impacts and crashes." It made no recommendation on a fix. This dispute leaves owners of the affected Jeeps waiting for government or court action. Many believe it also leaves Chrysler open to the risk of big liability if there are more crashes and injuries linked to the fuel tanks.
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