Chrysler, feds’ deal over Jeep recall could make public safer

via Consumer Watch » Recalls.

When Chrysler announced this week that it had agreed to reverse its decision to not issue a recall on Jeep Libertys and Grand Cherokees, it was a good decision to make; lives may have been saved in the process.

Chrysler had initially balked at the recall, especially since the U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had wanted to recall more than 2.7 million Jeep vehicles. The automaker struck a deal with the government that allowed them to cut the recall by more than half.

The original recall would have cost much more for Chrysler, which has argued all along that the vehicles are not nearly as dangerous as the NHTSA had contended. Under the deal, said to have been struck after closed-door and intense negotiations between Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Chrysler Group LLC CEO Sergio Marchionnes, Chrysler doesn’t have to use the term “recall” for more than a million vehicles.

At issue were rear-end crashes rupturing the fuel tank, which the NHTSA blamed for 51 deaths after a 3 1/2 year investigation. However, the automaker had refused to go along with the NHTSA’s demands or to concede blame; they were reportedly at loggerheads until the aforementioned meeting. The deal allows Chrysler to avoid taking the NHTSA to court, while avoiding the culpability resulting from a full recall. Ultimately, all the vehicles can now be addressed.

The fix for both the “recalled” vehicles (1.56 million Grand Cherokees and Jeep Libertys) and those under the “customer service action” (1.1 million Grand Cherokees) is to inspect the tow hitch (if one is installed) to make sure it’s safe and to install one in Jeeps that don’t have one. This is thought to add a structure to protect the fuel tank in the event of a rear-end crash.

The NHTSA has been accused of heavy-handed tactics in the past, as when in 2011 it goaded Ford into recalling 1.2 million trucks over air-bag issues. If you’re in the car business, recalls can be costly and frustrating. Often, recalls are for relatively minor issues, and whether its actually a defect that is responsible for deaths or injuries may come down to legal definitions.

But whatever of the legal definitions of who or what is to blame, the loss of 51 lives — and potential for more — is too high a price to pay; it far outweighs the cost to Chrysler’s reputation and any financial losses. In my viewpoint, If there’s even a chance of saving lives, there’s not really an option.

Vehicles covered under the recall:
* 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees
* 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs

Vehicles under the “customer service action”:
* 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees

If you have an affected vehicle, you should get a letter from the dealer. To find out more about the recall, click here.

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