By on June 7, 2013

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Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne jumped, so to speak, into the flames erupting around the rebuffed Jeep recall.  Says Reuters:

“Marchionne Friday reiterated Chrysler’s resistance to a recall of 2.7 million older-model Jeep vehicles, adding that the automaker is preparing to supply the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with information it had requested.”

Marchionne told Reuters:

“We will supply them with a complete set of data. Based on all available data, these cars are absolutely safe and totally in line with what the industry was producing at the time. There is no design defect.”

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33 Comments on “The Flame Wars: Jeeps “Absolutely Safe,” Marchionne Says...”


  • avatar
    mike1dog

    I’m not sure this will work. Ford could have said the same thing about the Pinto. There was a report that came out much later saying that essentially the Pinto was no worse and in some ways safer than other cars that size.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The nail in the coffin for Ford with the Pinto was a memo that surfaced concerning the cost savings of placing the fuel tank in that position.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not quite how it happened. Of course memos like that always exist. For every engineering decision, you can find memo for and against, with any kind of justification. But back in Pinto days there was no Internet and MSM set the rules. Once Nader got to airwaves, the whole nation marched in lockstep on command of the zombie box, demanding action. It still happens, of course. Just look at Toyota and the bogus “sudden unintended acceleration” story. The difference being that Toyota decided that appeasement was the best strategy. They issued a flurry of floor mat and pedal replacement recalls, which were completely ineffectual, because there was no problem in the first place, but Toyota hoped they would create an appearance of action. Marchione, however, decided to probe just how much the world has changed since Pinto. Godspeed.

        By the way, Jeep has some recall campaigns running on as we speak, in particular the M22 recall is to take off the skid places on Wranglers and replace them with worthless “skid bars”. Supposedly “material” can get scooped by the skid plate and come in contact with exhaust. Great going, tort lawers, thanks a lot. You made us all safer.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “It’s not quite how it happened. Of course memos like that always exist. For every engineering decision, you can find memo for and against, with any kind of justification.”

          No doubt. But in the minds of the Pinto’s detractors, and the public, the memo was the smoking gun of liability.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            That memo IIRC hung Ford because of the callous indifference to human life. Simply put, Ford executives analyzed the data and concluded that it would be cheaper to allow the statistically expected number of fires to happen and settle the lawsuits instead of recalling the cars out there. The business case was sold on this premise. Let the small number of people burn to death because it was cheaper in the long run. The seemingly excessive damages that followed was to make sure that Ford paid mightily for such disregard for human life, and to set a precedent. This case is a great example of the system doing exactly what it should do. How a person becomes a cold robot when they sit in the executive boardroom amazes me. These folks went home to their family like anybody else, yet they willingly made decisions to kill people. And some wonder why we live in a litigious society.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      >Jeeps “Absolutely Safe,” Marchionne Says

      For roasting marshmallows and hot dogs.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    Words will never convince the average buyer after they see pictures of an unmistakable, iconic vehicle engulfed in flames.

    Judging by the scuttlebutt at work, it isn’t just car people who are discussing this. Jeeps of every kind are huge up here.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    I have to side with Chrysler on this. The vehicles were built to the specs required for the day. Jeep could make a goodwill gesture and sell skid plates and class II or class III hitches at cost to registered owners of Jeeps for peace of mind and underbody protection, but this might be admitting guilt, so they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Those hitches would possibly make things even worse. I was behind a Grand Cherokee this morning and due to these articles my eye was drawn to that gas tank. It was fitted with a hitch that the receiver portion had a nice square edge less than 1″ from the tank. So a nice rear end collision could easily punch it through the tank. Which of course makes you wonder how many of the cars that did catch fire in a rear end collision were equipped with aftermarket hitches that were what actually punctured the tank?

      • 0 avatar
        cgjeep

        The factory hitch is up quite a bit higher with the bumper. If you buy the mopar one after the facet it comes with a template to cut the bumper cover. Because of that, and the price, most go with an aftermarket one.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      ::but this might be admitting guilt, so they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.::

      That’s a common misconception, but the law doesn’t work that way. Read Federal Rule of Evidence 407 for why this is not admitting guilt:

      ::Rule 407. Subsequent Remedial Measures

      When measures are taken that would have made an earlier injury or harm less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove:

      negligence;
      culpable conduct;
      a defect in a product or its design; or
      a need for a warning or instruction.

      But the court may admit this evidence for another purpose, such as impeachment or — if disputed — proving ownership, control, or the feasibility of precautionary measures.::

  • avatar
    Summicron

    “damned if they do and damned if they don’t”

    That’s what bothers me about this. Fire is the F-bomb of car safety; once it’s publicly inflicted upon a manufacturer at this high a level, the public will demand some form of financial bloodletting to square things. The question of its truthfulness will not be asked by the great majority of consumers who mostly still have faith in government watchdog agencies.

    This is precisely the kind of cynical undercutting of good-faith Americans in which the O administration specializes. It’s a magic bullet that can’t be dodged by explanation because Americans don’t like dealing with a lot of words.

    Question is why the government is shooting at Chrysler.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m not sure about the legal precedent here, but what if Jeep agrees to do something, and THEN someone still dies in a fire. That would implicate the “fix” as insufficient and require another huge cash outlay and PR battle.

    I’ve seen situations like that on real property — someone falls off your cliff? Sorry to hear that, they were trespassing. You put up a guardrail and they fall off your cliff? Your guard rail wasn’t good enough. Lawsuit!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Not to mention, those pre2008 cars are the responsibility of OLD Chrysler. But you’re right: measures taken to reduce accidents increase legal risk. Even “keep out” signs can be twisted into an “attractive nuisance” by a lawyer with a contingency fee on the line.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      ::I’m not sure about the legal precedent here, but what if Jeep agrees to do something, and THEN someone still dies in a fire. That would implicate the “fix” as insufficient::

      That’s not true. The fix is insufficient if the fix is insufficient. A car could catch on fire nonetheless for a variety of reasons — driver’s conduct, some third unrelated effect, unsanctioned repairs, etc. The fix would have to be evaluated as to whether it was negligent in itself or not. It’s not insufficient by implication.

      ::I’ve seen situations like that on real property — someone falls off your cliff? Sorry to hear that, they were trespassing. You put up a guardrail and they fall off your cliff? Your guard rail wasn’t good enough.::

      It depends on the fact pattern. If you were negligent with respect to the guard rail, then it might be your fault, but merely putting a guard rail up doesn’t immediately negate other legal principles. The law doesn’t work this way.

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    I with Chrysler on this one and if everyone would take a second to get past the fun of yelling “fire” their point makes sense.

    I don’t have the exact numbers but the example below is close enough to get the point of the disagreement.

    The government says that All SUV’s that have a rear crash to fire rate of something like .0005 out of 1000 vehicles (or 1/2 of a car for every 1000 cars), while the Jeep’s mentioned have something like a .0007.

    Marchionne (and ALL statisticians) would say this statistically insignificant – the gov says that .0007 is 40% worse than .0005 and all the cars should be recalled.

    Again, my numbers are for example only but this is the meat of the issue.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Your numbers aren’t particularly helpful because Marchionne isn’t saying that it’s statistically insignificant. He’s saying something along the lines of (a) the data and analysis are wrong, check out Chrysler’s data and analysis, and (b) the cars are not unsafe and meet all applicable standards, despite any difference.

      Here is the quote from the report, which you likely didn’t read:

      ::Taking the cumulative total of million registered vehicle years of 31 MRVYs to derive a rate for the Grand Cherokee leads to an overall exposure adjusted fatal incident rate of 1.0 per MRVY. A similar calculation for the Liberty produces 0.90 fatal incidents per MRVY. When compared to the peer group, which, as discussed below, has 80 fatal crashes and an overall rate of 0.5 fatal incidents per MRVY, the Grand Cherokee and Liberty are poor performers.::

      ::Further, ODI’s analysis showed that peer vehicle performance for post-rear impact fires and fuel tank leaks improved over time while Grand Cherokee and Liberty performance actually declined. ODI’s initial analysis is that the MY 1993-2004 peer vehicles experienced a combined post-rear impact fires and fuel tank leak rate of 0.6 per MRVY. The same analysis showed that the MY 2002-2007 peers experienced rates of 0.3 fatal and non-fatal incidents per MRVY, showing an improving trend. In contrast, the MY 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee has a combined rate of 1.5 fatal and non-fatal incidents per MRVY and the MY 2002-2007 Liberty has a combined rate of 3.4 incidents per MRVY.::

      It is highly unlikely that the difference in the latter paragraph is statistically insignificant, and I’d suspect the first one isn’t either, so no, it’s not the meat of the issue.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Well now, “Volts on Fire” can change his screen name to “Jeeps on Fire” and be contemporary, as GM-hate is obsolete, now!

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    The “meat” of the argument is exactly what you presented in the actual numbers; statistically speaking, at rate of 1.0 and .9 vs. the average of .5 is virtually nothing – it may not even round to a whole incident, which is one of the points Chrysler is making.

    The government is focused on the percent change difference from the average and calling it an “issue”.

    Buying 2 powerball tickets will double your chance of winning but your odds are still incredibly small – In real terms, the Jeep is no worse than it’s peers, it’s just statistically less lucky and given the given the variability of these events, that’s all it is.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      The following statement is absolutely wrong: “Marchionne (and ALL statisticians) would say this statistically insignificant” — no statistician would say that without knowing a variety of other things.

      The issue is that you don’t understand the terminology. “Statistically significant” is a term of art with a very specific meaning having to do with p-values.

      What you’re saying is, “who cares? 1 death per MRVY is not very significant.” That statement has nothing to do with statistical significance, and you should stop trying to imply that your argument or Marchionne’s has anything to do with statistics as a field of study.

      The difference between 0.5 deaths per MRVY and 1.0 deaths per MRVY may very well be statistically significant depending on the p-value. However, it may not be a significant base rate about which we should be regulating.

      Here’s another example. Let’s say Event A has a 1 in a million chance of happening and Event B has a 1 in a billion chance of happening, based on NHTSA data. Neither of the probabilities has a high base rate — so there is a significant chance that neither will happen for any given case. However, the difference between those two rates is likely statistically significant, assuming a proper sample.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Pretty amazing when you think about it – car versus plane safety. The NTSB finds crap wiring in planes time and time again, but can only recommend refit to the FAA, which sits on its hands and does SFA. The public troops onto planes with scarcely a worry in the world, trusting someone or other.

    Meanwhile NHTSA gets its knickers in a twist about nothing. I haven’t heard of a Jeep Liberty immolating, although I’ve seen three cars on fire. (I’m 65, so it happens rarely) One was a Dodge Spirit – does that count?

    I do live within 10 miles of an airport. That big bang I heard and thought was the local quarry? Nah, just a 747. Swissair 111 went down 20 miles away. Bad wiring, 229 lives. Nothing changes.

    How many Liberty crash fires does it take to equal 229 lives? But Chrysler is supposed to spend $3 billion for nothing, and the aircraft industry gets a free pass?

    Yes, it’s a witch hunt against foreigners. Obama has been a great disappointment. And if his minions read this via some Verizon link, f**k off from this Canuck. Fix Guantanamo, end drone attacks and stop acting like an utter twit.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Suck it Trebek

  • avatar

    I only own one car that doesn’t have a fuel tank behind the rear axle, and that is a 37 chevy truck and the tank is inside the cab and under the seat.

    I also side with Chrysler but rather than just saying “we didn’t do it” they should show how many vehicles in that period were built with the same design. Government test and studies are well known for being horribly wrong. It amazes me how folks will say “you cant trust the government on military decisions” and then say “government told me this car is unsafe!”. You really either have to trust the government or realize they are a bunch of biased bureaucrats.

  • avatar
    LDMAN1

    Tranquillo. Non fa male (Relax. This won’t hurt).

  • avatar
    AJ

    I’ve got a Liberty in my garage. I think I’ll put a bumper sticker on it that says, “Hit me and we’ll both blow up.” (lol)


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