In a rare move, Chrysler is defying a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall request involving over 2.7 million Jeeps.
Chrysler maintains its Jeeps are safe and challenged the regulator’s collision data analysis. The NHTSA says that the rear-mounted gas tanks in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles are too vulnerable to leaking and could catch on fire in a rear-end crash, according to ABC News. Although the NHTSA can call for a recall, the agency requires a court order to enforce that demand.
“Our data shows that these vehicles may contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety,” said David Strickland, the agency’s administrator, adding that he hopes Chrysler will reconsider its decision, according to ABC News.
The NHTSA investigation into the Jeeps was initiated in August 2010 following a request by consumer advocacy group, the Center for Auto Safety, according to ABC News. Clarence Ditlow, the Center’s director, has sent numerous letters to Chrysler seeking a recall.
According to the NHTSA, the Jeeps’ fuel tanks can fail in a rear impact collision, leaking fuel and causing fires in the presence of an ignition source, said ABC News. The gas tanks’ placement behind the rear axle and the height of the tank above the road represents a design defect, according to the regulator.
In 2004, Chrysler moved the Grand Cherokee’s fuel tanks ahead of the rear axle; the car maker did the same in 2007 with the Liberty, according to ABC News. Retrofitting older Jeeps with repositioned tanks is costly—about $240 million according to analyst estimates.
Meanwhile, Chrysler recently recalled about 469,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Commanders due to an electrical fault in the transfer case that allows the recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Commanders to shift into neutral on their own. An Associated Press report indicated that Chrysler had “found cracks in a circuit board that turns the four-wheel-drive system on and off.”
A consumer incident prompted the recall, according to AutoBlog. An owner started his vehicle remotely and it rolled away.
Last year, a recall was issued on more than one million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicles because they had several defective safety features that posed serious injury risks to drivers and passengers. That recall involved 775,000 Jeep SUVs in model years 2002-2004. The recall was prompted because the control module for the airbag was found to be defective and could result in the front or curtain airbags deploying without warning, even in the absence of a collision.
Seat belt pretensioners may also be unexpectedly deployed in these vehicles, which may result in serious injuries for drivers and passengers and could also cause a driver to lose focus and control of the vehicle and, depending on the situation, could result in an automobile accident.