Chrysler Group has reversed course and says it will recall 2.7 million SUVs over concerns of fuel leakage and fire risk in rear-end collision. Originally, Chrysler opposed a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration request that it recall the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty.
NHTSA recommended a recall of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty because their fuel tanks can rupture in a rear-end crash, potentially allowing fuel to leak and start a fire. The agency said it had reports of "numerous fire-related deaths and injuries" and said the vehicles' designs were unsafe because the fuel tanks are located behind the rear axle.
Chrysler initially refused to recall the vehicles because it said the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty met all appropriate safety requirements when the models were new. Moreover, the company shared data showing that similar SUVs from the era had higher occurrences of fires after crashes. "Our analysis shows the incidents, which are the focus of this request, occur less than once for every million years of vehicle operation," Chrysler said in a statement earlier this month.
Today, Chrysler said that the company and NHTSA, "have resolved their differences," and would proceed with a recall of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty. The campaign involves dealers visually inspecting affected SUVs and determining whether or not to install extra bracing to divert crash forces away from the fuel tank.
Chrysler is not admitting fault and maintains that the recall is unnecessary. "These vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group," the company said in a statement. "Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers."
This was the first time an automaker has declined to recall cars since 1996, when Chrysler said it would not recall 91,000 cars for problems with the seatbelts.
NHTSA opened an investigation into the risk of fire in the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2010, and in 2011 the Center for Auto Safety recommended that 2.2 million of the SUVs be recalled because they could catch fire in an accident. At one point, the NHTSA investigation covered 5.1 million vehicles, although only about 2.7 million are covered by the recall announced today.