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Chrysler, NHTSA tussle over “massive” Jeep recall

It would be hard to estimate the number of Ohio motorists who own and drive Chrysler-made Jeeps. Given that those vehicles are immensely popular and perennial best sellers, though, a reasonable guess might be that the number is in the hundreds of thousands.

At any rate, it is large, and a good number of those drivers, along with other Jeep owners nationally, are likely focused closely on the openly flaring exchanges that are ongoing between Chrysler executives and officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Jeeps are SUVS, and federal safety regulators often view their crash risks and outcomes similarly to the way they assess truck accidents. That is, and when compared to the consequences of car crashes, an accident involving a truck or SUV is often more severe, entailing a higher fatality rate and more property damage.

The NHTSA announced just yesterday that, following a lengthy investigation, it is calling upon Chrysler to issue what has been termed “a massive” recall of 2.7 million Jeep models that agency officials state need to undergo remedial fixes to eliminate fuel leaks and heightened fire risks. Those risks, the NHTSA asserts, are pronounced when Jeeps are struck by other vehicles from behind. More than 50 people have reportedly died in such crashes.

Chrysler’s response to that announcement was swift and uncompromising. The vehicles in question, say company spokespersons, are safe and not in need of any repair, and Chrysler will not issue a recall.

A Los Angeles Times report on the news and exchanges calls that response “a rare act of defiance” from a vehicle manufacturer.

Some commentators think that the company will relent in the end, owing to adverse publicity that could be aroused by its perceived intransigence regarding a safety matter. At the moment, though, Chrysler seems resolute in its response. If the company does not budge, and the NHTSA remains firm in its stance, the agency would need to formally asset a defect in the Jeep models and solicit the aid of federal prosecutors in bringing legal action against the manufacturer.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Chrysler defies request for Jeep fuel tank recall,” Ken Bensinger, June 4, 2013