Yesterday, we brought you word of an interesting wrinkle in a recalled requested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Chrysler, the target of the directive, has refused to agree to the agency’s order. That creates a conundrum wherein consumers have been informed of a possible safety defect but have little recourse to do anything about it until the issue gets resolved or they make the fixes themselves.
A new report looks at the situation in greater depth, and it’s imperative that owners of Jeep Liberty vehicles of the 2002 through 2007 model years and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles of the 1993 to 2004 model years at least understand the circumstances surrounding the dispute.
The NHTSA alleges that the design and placement of the plastic gas tank on these vehicles leaves the units susceptible to a fire when the vehicles are involved in a rear-end collision. The agency worries that such a crash can lead the affected automobiles to spill gas, which could prompt a fire if any kind of ignition source is present.
Although the NHTSA believes that the aforementioned hazard has contributed to 51 fatalities stemming from 37 blazes, the Center for Auto Safety and other organizations believe the actual number of fatalities could be even greater.
If the recall goes through, it would mean that 2.7 million vehicles will need to be brought in to a dealer to obtain the necessary repairs. However, Chrysler is not keen on issuing a recall. Their position is that fatality rates cited by safety groups are grossly exaggerated and that the vehicles are no more dangerous than similar types of models from other companies. In citing their point, they point to the availability of behind-the-rear-axle gas tank placement and inadequacies with the NHTSA’s probe of the situation.
Consumers concerned about this potential safety issue do have options at the moment, although they’re not ideal. As a representative of the Center for Auto Safety suggests, a skid plate can be obtained which can be placed atop the gas tank. This type of equipment was an option upon initial purchase, but it will now run consumers around $300.
It should be noted, though, that the installation of this plate isn’t a surefire fix. The Center for Auto Safety believes that safety can only be truly assured with a new tank valve and a better gas filler hose; unfortunately, such equipment doesn’t exist on the market. And many consumers would probably scoff at a the skid plate’s $300 price tag without assurances that they’ll get their money back if and when the recall is issued.
Chrysler has until June 18 to make a final decision. A public hearing will follow, at which point the NHTSA might issue an involuntary recall and start court proceedings if Chrysler doesn’t comply.