Given a limited amount of time to respond, Chrysler Group LLC said it has agreed to recall 1.56 million of the older jeeps at issue, and the NHTSA says it is pleased.
Read more about the details of Chrysler’s resolution of the dispute with the NHTSA.
Chrysler agreed Tuesday to add or replace trailer hitches on 2.7 million SUVs to reduce the fire risk from rear-impact collisions, avoiding a potential lawsuit by federal safety regulators that could have damaged the Jeep brand’s reputation for quality and customer service.
In a compromise with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chrysler agreed to recall 1.56 million Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993–98 and Jeep Libertys from 2002-07, after refusing the agency’s request earlier this month.
The company also is conducting a “service action” for 1.14 million Jeep Grand Cherokees for model years 1999–2004. Chrysler dealers will inspect those vehicles and replace aftermarket trailer hitches with original equipment trailer hitches.
Regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the agency will continue to investigate the issue, including a review of new documents provided by Chrysler. NHTSA officials said they were pleased with Chrysler’s decision.
While Chrysler stood by its assertion that the vehicles are not defective, the automaker acknowledged consumer concerns about the safety of the vehicles, which have fuel tanks situated behind the rear axle.
Chrysler said its dealers will install trailer hitches on affected vehicles that do not already have company-installed hitches.
“Chrysler Group’s analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group,” said a statement from Chrysler, controlled by Italy’s Fiat .
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on June 3 asked Chrysler to recall the two Jeep models because the placement of the fuel tank leaves them less protected in the event of rear-end crash and could lead to a leak and fire.
The safety agency’s data shows that 51 people have been killed in rear-end crashes involving the two Jeep models affected. Chrysler early this month said NHTSA’s investigation was flawed, and that fuel leaks and fires were extremely rare.
Sandy Munro, president of consultancy Munro & Associates in suburban Detroit, said a conservative estimate of the recall’s cost is $300 million.
Alec Gutierrez, analyst with industry consultant Kelley Blue Book, said consumers have recently been forgiving of automakers who comply with recalls.