Chrysler Group LLC has just a few more days to formally respond to a request from the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs. On June 3, NHTSA asked Chrysler Group to voluntarily recall the vehicles. On June 4, Chrysler Group said it would not participate in a recall. NHTSA gave the automaker until June 18 to formally respond and explain why it would not comply with the recall request.
The Detroit News reports that after Chrysler's response, the NHTSA "could then issue a formal finding and hold a public hearing seeking a recall. Chrysler last objected to a recall in 1997." The Detroit News adds that a public hearing could be a public relations disaster for Chrysler, as the hearing could include “possible testimony from parents who lost children in Jeep fires that the government blames on a defective design." According to the Detroit News, NHTSA says 32 rear-impact fires in 1993 – 2004 Grand Cherokees have caused 44 deaths. In the 2002 – 2007 Jeep Liberty, NHTSA says seven deaths are the result of five rear-impact fires.
It is exceedingly rare for an automaker to refuse to comply with a NHTSA recall request. Michigan Live writes, "Especially since Toyota Motor Corp.’s unintended acceleration problems in late-2000s, automakers have been open to recalling millions of vehicles nearly at the drop of a hat to avoid public scrutiny, lawsuits and collateral damage."
Cars.com says, "Automakers refusing to comply with a recall request are uncommon these days. But not uncommon in the past four decades are government investigations of similar fuel-system issues. One of the most well-known cases involved the recall of 1.5 million Ford Pintos and Mercury Bobcats in 1978 after rear crashes resulted in 27 deaths and two-dozen injuries."
Because the recall covers the composition and placement of the fuel tanks in the affected Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty models, fixing the issue on 2.7 million models would be very expensive for Chrysler Group. In a June 4 statement, the automaker says it "has been working and sharing data with the Agency on this issue since September 2010. The company does not agree with NHTSA’s conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation. The subject vehicles are safe and are not defective."
Until Chrysler and the NHTSA resolve the issue, consumers are left in limbo. Many analysts agree that whether Chrysler complies with the recall or not, owners of affected vehicles can expect to see a dip in their car's resale value.
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