Facing a looming deadline to comply with a NHTSA request to recall 2.7 million 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs – some of which are close to 20 years old at this point – Chrysler had decided to comply with NHTSA’s request.
While Chrysler maintains that their vehicles are safety, the auto maker has decided to inspect and, if necessary, repair the affected vehicles, as per their official statement
As a result of the agreement, Chrysler Group will conduct a voluntary campaign with respect to the vehicles in question that, in addition to a visual inspection of the vehicle will, if necessary, provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts.
The issue revolves around rear-mounted gas tanks in the two models and the question of whether or not rear-end crashes can cause vehicle fires. NHTSA has been investigating the matter since 2010 and reports a total of 51 deaths resulting from 37 rear-end crashes in both cars.
Chrysler not only maintained that the Jeeps in question were safe, but mounted a mini-PR war against NHTSA, providing data on rear end crash fatalities. The company may have been right, but public perception may have been such that Chrysler didn”t want to risk going through what Ford did during the Pinto fire controversy. The PR battle would have been unwinnable, given the complexity of the issue and the public’s general aversion to nuance and detail when it comes to any sort of discourse. We’ll have more as this story develops.