Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Chrysler to recall several Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty vehicles for auto defects. The NHTSA said that Jeep Grand Cherokees made between 1993 and 2004, and Jeep Liberties from 2002 through 2007 have a high rate of fatal fires when they are involved in rear-end car accidents.
Chrysler said that their vehicles are still safe and don't pose a higher risk for fatal fires in rear-end collisions than any other small SUVs driven in the U.S. The NHTSA has already asked Chrysler to recall the vehicles and since Chrysler does not want to issue a recall, the two are exchanging information to try and reach an agreement.
The NHTSA reports that the Jeeps in question pose a significant safety risk to drivers due to the fuel tank being behind the rear axle and under the rear floor of the vehicle. When the Jeeps were made, this was not an uncommon placement of the fuel tank but now it is rarely placed there due to the fire risks.
The solution to fix the dangerous fuel tanks could be for Chrysler to buy back the vehicles, but that would be very costly. One other potential solution would be to place a plate over the fuel tank to add extra protection in the event of a car accident.
Some consumer safety and recall experts say that the NHTSA could take Chrysler to court to force them to issue a recall but they hope it doesn't come down to that.
In most vehicle recall cases, the manufacturer will conduct a recall to avoid further bad press and damage to their company's reputation. Since Chrysler is refusing to issue a recall right now, the NHTSA said that Chrysler's publicity is only going to get worse the longer it takes for the recall issue to be addressed.
Some believe that Chrysler has not issued a recall yet because they don't know how to fix the vehicles and NHTSA does not offer remedies for recalled vehicles, leaving that up to the automakers to figure out and then the NHTSA signs off on the proposed repairs.
Consumer safety advocates are hoping that the NHTSA and Chrysler will be able to reach an agreement and keep unsafe Jeep vehicles off the road but it is too soon to tell what that agreement may be.
Source: USA Today, "Jeep recall would be costly, but so would PR hit," Jayne O'Donnell, June 6, 2013