Chrysler Group is daring to defy the government by refusing to recall 2.7 million Jeeps that federal safety officials say are dangerous and should be taken off the market. According to a news report in USA Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) send the automaker a letter asking it to issue a recall for 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and the 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles. Federal officials say that the rear-mounted gas tanks in those vehicles are likely to leak and catch fire in a rear-end crash.
However, Chrysler officials have said that they “disagree” with NHTSA’s assessment of the situation and their request. They say NHTSA’s analysis is faulty. Chrysler has said they will not honor NHTSA’s request for a recall. So far, 44 deaths have been reported in 32 rear-end collisions and fires involving the Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles. In addition, seven deaths have been reported in five rear-end crashes involving Liberty vehicles.
When adjusted for the number of Jeeps on the road, Grand Cherokees had a rear-crash fire death rate of 1 per million registered vehicle years and the Liberty, 0.9. While NHTSA says based on those number that these Chrysler SUVs are poor performers, the automaker has shot back saying that the numbers and differences among them are meaningless and statistically insignificant. NHTSA began its investigation in August 2010 after a request by safety advocacy group, the Center for Auto Safety.
While government officials are hoping that Chrysler will reconsider its position, they do have other options. NHTSA could take Chrysler to court in an attempt to force a safety recall. Toyota paid out massive fines for dragging its feet on recalls relating to sudden acceleration issues. Ever since the high-profile Ford Pinto recall in 1978, automakers have been gravitating toward designs in which fuel tanks were located in less vulnerable locations than behind the rear axle.
Failure to Take Responsibility
Chrysler’s response to the government’s request for a recall is shocking to say the least. It is common in most cases for the automaker and the government to come to a consensus that allows the manufacturer to issue a “voluntary recall” and fix the safety issues. However, recalls are expensive and cost automakers millions of dollars, depending on the nature and magnitude of the recall.
As an auto product liability attorney who represents injured victims and their families, I sincerely hope Chrysler issues the recall or that they are forced by NHTSA to issue this auto safety recall. Several of the victims who have been killed by these Jeep fires were young children. How many more deaths is it going to take for Chrysler to issue this recall? It is appalling that they have chosen to not only decline the government’s offer, but to maintain that there is nothing wrong with their vehicles. Automakers who deny responsibility for their defective and dangerous products and put profits before public safety, should be held accountable and severely penalized for their negligence.