For the first time since 1996, a car manufacturer is refusing a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) request for a recall. The Government agency says that the gas tank design in the 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty is unsafe. Chrysler disagrees.
In a 13 page letter, NHTSA says that these models have fuel tanks that are located behind the axle, leaving them less protected in the event of a rear-end collision. This could potentially result in a fuel leak, leading to a fire.
The recall would affect 2.7 million vehicles and Chrysler just isn’t willing to do it. While they say they remain committed to continue working with NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of vehicles, they do not intend to recall the SUVs as they regard them as safe and stand behind the quality of their vehicles.
The NHTSA investigation began as a result of a request from the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington public interest group. The group said there have been 201 fire crashes with 285 deaths involving the Grand Cherokees, and 36 accidents resulting in 53 deaths involving the Libertys. Chrysler said that the center’s figures greatly overstate the number of deaths caused by rear-end crashes and fires, and it even disputes the lower estimates from NHTSA of at least 37 accidents that caused fires and resulted in at least 51 deaths.
Since it started the recall process in 1966, NHTSA said it has been involved in 17,000 separate recalls involving about 500 million vehicles. Chrysler has until June 18th to formally respond to NHTSA.
By the way, the 1996 challenge to a recall? That was also Chrysler. They disputed the recall of 91,000 cars for a seat belt issue. Two years later, Chrysler won a federal court decision regarding that recall. Chrysler has conducted 52 recalls over the past several years, 49 of which they initiated themself.