In a rare display of defiance, Chrysler is refusing to comply with NHTSA’s request to recall 2.7 million SUVs, and is publicly challenging NHTSA on the validity of the recall.
NHTSA asked Chrysler to recall Grand Cherokee models made between 1993-2004 and Liberty models made between 2002-2007, due to a defective fueling system that can lead to vehicle fires in rear end crashes. The agency has even blamed the alleged defect for as many as 51 deaths. But Chrysler has dug in its heels, issuing a statement and a white paper on NHTSA’s findings, stating
“The company does not agree with NHTSA’s conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation. The subject vehicles are safe and are not defective…We believe NHTSA’s initial conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data, and we are committed to continue working with the agency to resolve this disagreement.”
In its own statement, NHTSA said that the Jeeps “…may contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety.” NHTSA has been investigating the models for some time, and Chrysler was first notified of the matter in September 2010. Chrysler has also been the subject of numerous lawsuits regarding the alleged defect.
According to Automotive News, The main point of contention appears to rest with rear crash standards. The two models were compliant with contemporary safety standards, but since 2008, the standard for rear impact fuel leakage had doubled. In addition, proposed modifications would apparently increase the risk of fires during side impact crashes, which are more prevalent.
While the matter may appear to be a squabble between Chrysler and NHTSA over arcane vehicle regulations, the subtext is much more interesting. A major OEM – an American one at that – is taking on NHTSA over a potentially touchy recall subject. Vehicle fires, lawsuits and deaths are all part and parcel of this story, and Chrysler is about to wage a bloody battle against NHTSA – these unpleasant topics will surely come up at some point.