The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Chrysler to recall about 2.7 million Jeeps, but instead of agreeing and starting a recall campaign, the automaker is refusing. Chrysler has issued a response to the NHTSA, which issued a statement on the automaker's controversial actions.
The agency is requesting Chrysler recall 1993-2004 Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Libertys because it believes the SUVs are equipped with defective fuel systems that greatly increase the risk of a fire in the event of a rear impact. In the letter, the NHTSA said the defect has resulted in "numerous fire-related deaths and injuries," including one incident said to involve a stationary Grand Cherokee bursting into flames after a semi-truck hit it from behind going 65 mph.
Chrysler says it stands by its vehicles and refuses to recall them. "These vehicles met and exceeded all applicable requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 301, pertaining to fuel-system integrity," Chrysler said in a statement. "Our analysis shows the incidents, which are the focus of this request, occur less than once for every million years of vehicle operation."
Although the automaker is rejecting the action, it continues to share data with the agency, which it has been doing since the investigation went underway in September 2010. The last time an automaker challenged a recall request from the NHTSA was in 1996, when Chrysler refused to issue a recall on about 91,000 vehicles because of an issue related to the seatbelt system. Two years later, Chrysler won a court case on the matter.
“NHTSA hopes that Chrysler will reconsider its position and take action to protect its customers and the driving public,” the agency said in a statement.
Either way, it appears Chrysler is not backing down. "Chrysler Group stands behind the quality and safety of its vehicles. It conducts voluntary recalls when they are warranted, and in most cases, before any notice or investigation request from NHTSA," it said.
As for the next steps of action, the NHTSA administrator will determine whether a safety defect exists at a public meeting and make a final decision. Should Chrysler be ordered to issue a recall during this time, it may challenge the decision by taking it to federal court.
This isn't the first time Chrysler has challenged those who question the safety of its vehicles. Last year, Chrysler sought out a Swedish magazine after it reported the Jeep Grand Cherokee failed a rollover "moose test." Chrysler engineers attempted to replicate the test numerous times, but after it could not produce the same results, it claimed the test was invalid.
Source: Chrysler, NHTSA, CNN