If you’re one of the nearly three million people who drive certain Jeeps – Grand Cherokees made between 1993 and 2004 and Libertys made between 2002 and 2007 – you’re probably watching the latest “flare up” between the government and Chrysler with a mixture of shock and awe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants these models recalled because the location of the fuel tank makes it subject to fire in a rear-impact crash. (It is behind the rear axle, slightly below the bumper.) But in a rare move, Chrysler Group has refused to recall the SUVs. They deny that the vehicles are unsafe and assert that the fuel systems “do not pose an unreasonable risk” and that Chrysler “stands behind the quality and safety of its vehicles..
Chrysler did say, however, that it will work with NHTSA to resolve the dispute.
The “dispute” began in August 2010, when the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, DC, requested an investigation. NHTSA’s recall request cited 32 rear-impact collisions that caused fatal fires resulting in 44 deaths in Jeep Grand Cherokees and five accidents that resulted in seven deaths in the Jeep Liberty.
You may recall the infamous Ford Pinto and Mercury Bobcat gas tank fires in the 1970s, which involved 27 deaths in 38 rear-end impacts. Ford Motor Company recalled those vehicles in 1978.
The last time Chrysler refused a NHTSA recall request was in 1998, when NHTSA said their 1995 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus mid-size sedans had faulty safety restraints. In that instance, the government did not force the recall.
An ABC News report (read more here http://abcnews.go.com/Business/chrysler-recall-jeeps/story?id=19330233) addresses the question of what owners of these Jeep models should do. A steel cover may be bolted over the fuel tank to provide extra protection. The recommendation of Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, to owners of these older-model Jeeps: “Drive your Jeep as infrequently as you can, and don’t put someone in the back seat..