2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Patrick Rall's picture

NHTSA Incredibly OKs Chrysler's Refusal of Jeep Fuel Tank Recall

Back in July 2013, the Chrysler Group publicly refused to recall 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs as instructed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and after 6 months of discussion – the federal government has accepted the Chrysler Group’s refusal to recall those vehicles.

Before you get to thinking “the Chrysler Group is refusing to recall dangerous vehicles” we should offer some background on the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty recall which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued and the Chrysler Group refused. The NHTSA issued the order to Chrysler to recall 2.7 million Jeep models from the 1993 through 2007 model years after a lengthy investigation into a concern that these vehicles were prone to fire in the event of a specific type of impact. Chrysler was quick to point out that those vehicles included in the NHTSA mandated recall met or exceeded all government safety standards and that these vehicles were no more prone to fires than any other vehicle from that era with a similar fuel tank setup – of which there were quite a few.

A few weeks after that initial refusal of the NHTSA ordered recall of the 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and the 2002-2007 Liberty, the Chrysler Group had a slight change of tune as they issued a new statement that they would recall those vehicles to address the NHTSA concerns while still maintaining that there was no flaw with the design or components of those affected Jeep SUVs. However, the Chrysler Group was technically issuing a different recall for the same problem and their take on things only saw about 1.56 million of those initial 2.7 million Jeeps recalled. At first, the NHTSA was at odds with the Chrysler Group over their refusing the original recall order and taking their own approach but now that months of discussions have taken place – the US federal government has approved Chrysler’s approach to the perceived fuel tank problem.

The Chrysler Group found during internal testing that they could protect the rear mounted fuel tank by adding a trailer hitch assembly. With the Mopar trailer hitch in place, impacts from the rear are not as likely to damage the fuel tank so these vehicles are not as likely to run into fuel leak or fire issues so to fix this problem, Chrysler will ask the owners of those 1.56 million Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs to return to their local dealership where a trailer hitch assembly will be added free of charge. Those vehicles which came with a factory towing package – or those Jeeps which had a Mopar hitch assembly added after the fact – are exempt from this recall considering that they already have the item which will protect the fuel tank in the event of a rear end collision.

I suggested in the title that it was incredible that the NHTSA allowed the Chrysler Group to refuse the initial recall but that is because the US government seldom admits that it was wrong - not because those vehicles needed to be recalled. It seems as though Chrysler stood by their belief that those models are safe and they were able to prove to the government that their recall direction was better than the one ordered by the feds...and that is incredible.

So the Chrysler Group is undoubtedly happy that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is happy with their fix for this problem but there is one man who isn’t happy about the government’s decision to let Chrysler refuse the initial recall order. Clarence Ditlow, director for the private group The Center for Auto Safety, has spoken out against the NHTSA’s decision to let Chrysler fix the problem by adding a trailer hitch. However, considering that few people care what Clarence Ditlow or The Center for Auto Safety thinks about anything, the small time alarmist group likely isn’t going to be able to milk any more attention out of this supposed Jeep problem so it is onto the next automotive witch hunt for Ditlow and his network of bored letter-writing housewives.

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Notwithstanding Chrysler's contention that there is no design problem, there is no defense for the inability for yet another useless federal agency to enforce it's mission. A recall was stipulated, the OEM agreed to a problem mitigation, the agency approved and now 6 months later, there has been no action. This in itself should result in NHTSA officials being be hauled in front of a congressional inquiry and held accountable for their lack of performance. Just like at the VA, the NSA, the State Department and others that are not yet revealed, there are people at the top who need to be held accountable. There are high level career managers who should lose their jobs. It's time to clean house in Washington, TOP to BOTTOM and LEFT to RIGHT. The US Government is abjectly broken because 1) there is too much of it, 2) politics without accountability is the rule, 3) legislators have a right to hold lifetime office so long as they can be re-elected mostly on irrelevant campaign rhetoric and mudslinging, 4) there is a revolving door between government agencies and industry, and 5) because the bribe money that has been injected into the legislative and enforcement process has corrupted the system.