June 05, 2013

Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigation (ODI)

Chrysler Corporation Refuses to Issue Safety Recall for Grand Cherokee and Liberty Vehicles

15 fatalities and 46 Reported Injuries from Fuel Fed Fires

On June 3, 2013 The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked Chrysler Corporation to issue a voluntary recall of 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Liberty vehicles due to incidents of crash related fire hazards associated with the fuel storage systems.  Chrysler has refuted NHTSA's conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles claiming that the subject vehicles are safe and are not defective. The manufacturer stated, “After an exhaustive engineering analysis, Chrysler Group has found no evidence that the fuel systems in the subject vehicles are defective in either their design or manufacture.”

The recall request was issued after NHTSA conducted extensive analysis of data regarding the fuel tank integrity and determined that auto defects exist that can result in rear-impact-related tank failures and fatal fire crashes. To date 15 deaths and 46 injuries have been reported, revealing that there is a significant threat of enhanced or secondary injuries to vehicle occupants in the event of a crash. 

Fuel tank integrity became a safety priority in the aftermath of the famous Ford Pinto tragedy that caused catastrophic burn fatalities to occupants involved in rear impact collisions. As a result, many manufacturers have changed the design on vehicles to ensure that fuel tanks are properly protected.  Federal guidelines provide general safety parameters that all manufacturers must comply with including Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 301 (FMVSS No. 301) which specifically addresses Fuel Tank Integrity. 

Chrysler Corporation argues that the vehicles in question comply with FMVSS No. 301.  NHTSA does not contest the claim, but says “The existence of a minimum standard does not require NHTSA to ignore deadly problems. Viewed another way, a FMVSS does not preclude a finding of a safety related defect in a vehicle when supported by the evidence.” 

Approximately 2.7 million vehicles are included in the proposed recall class.  According to NHTSA analysis, two fatalities occurred in Florida as result of this defective design.  Chrysler has until June 18, 2013 to formally respond to NHTSA. 

If Chrysler fails to initiate a recall, NHTSA may proceed to an Initial Decision that these vehicles contain a safety-related defect. An Initial Decision will be accompanied by the publication of a Federal Register notice describing the alleged defects, the safety consequences of these defects, the ODI investigation, the scheduling of a public meeting, and the issuance of a press release to inform the public of this matter.

Owners are encouraged to contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153) or go to www.safercar.gov with any questions or concerns surrounding these or any other recalls or safety campaigns.