Chrysler refuses to recall 2.7 million vehicles that the Federal Government has labeled unsafe
After over 2 years of research and data sharing with Chrysler, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has requested that Chrysler recall all 1993-2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 model year Jeep Liberties, a total of approximately 2.7 million vehicles, due to an alleged safety defect relating to the placement of the fuel tank on the vehicles.
On June 4, 2013, in a rare, defiant response, Chrysler refused to recall the vehicles.
According to NHTSA, the design of the vehicles is defective because the fuel tanks are mounted behind the rear axle, which could lead to the rapture of the fuel tank, and an increased risk of fire during severe rear-end collisions. NHTSA claims that this defective design has resulted in 51 deaths, which is at a much higher rate of incidence than similar vehicles of that same era.
In response, Chrysler claims that the vehicles in question are safe, that they met the fuel safety standards when they were manufactured, and that they still meet the current fuel safety standards today. According to Chrysler, NHTSA’s analysis is incomplete, NHTSA uses unrepresented comparisons, and the vast majority of accidents in question involved "high energy crashes" where the injuries would have been sustained regardless of the location of the fuel tank.
So what will happen next? NHTSA will wait until June 18, 2013 to see if Chrysler reconsiders. If Chrysler continues to defy NHTSA’s request, NHTSA will hold a public hearing and then decide whether to issue an involuntary recall within 30-60 days. If Chrysler still refuses, then NHTSA can request the Department of Justice to sue Chrysler on its behalf to force the recall.
Will Chrysler give in without a fight? Not likely. Although recalls like this are typically dealt with behind closed doors, and NHTSA’s authority to protect the lives of motorists is rarely questioned, Chrysler has a history of questioning NHTSA’s conclusions. In fact, in 1997, the Department of Justice sued Chrysler to force recall of 91,000 defective seatbelt anchors in Dodge Cirrus and Stratus sedans. Chrysler was forced to recall the seatbelt anchors and pay a $800,000 fine. A year later an appellate court overturned the ruling, but Chrysler had already replaced the seatbelt anchors.
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