Chrysler has refused a request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall about 2.7 million Jeep models, saying they are confident the cars are safe. It is very rare for an automaker to refuse to recall cars when requested by the government agency.
The focus of the recall request are 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models. The NHTSA feels that the gas tank design is unsafe and could cause the cars to catch on fire in a rear-end collision.
Chrysler said in a statement that it believes the agency's conclusions are based on an "incomplete analysis of underlying data." Furthermore, Chrysler says the design of the gas tank, which is located behind the rear axle, is common in many other cars, and many other fatal crashes of the cars in question involved very high-speed collisions that would have had the same outcome even with a different design.
Chrysler has been providing data to the NHTSA since September 2010. The agency began investigating the Jeep models at the request of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer group that monitors accident data and takes consumer complaints. The center also recently requested that the NHTSA issue a recall of the cars, saying it had contacted the CEOs of Chrysler and its parent company, Fiat, five times to recall the Jeeps but received no response.
NHTSA can only require Chrysler to repair a small percentage of the affected vehicles, since the recall laws only require cars to be repaired free of charge if they are less than 10 years old. That would include cars that are 2003 models or newer for current recalls. The matter will likely be taken up in U.S. District Court if Chrysler doesn't reverse its decision on the recall request.
Do you own one of the cars that could be recalled?
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.