Chrysler Agrees to a Partial Recall of Some Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty Models after US Government Pressure

In mid-June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ended a two-week standoff with Chrysler over the recall of millions of Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs. The NHTSA had asked Chrysler to recall over 2.7 million vehicles, alleging performance and design defects. Chrysler has always denied charges that its Grand Cherokees and Liberties are unsafe, and was expected to reject the recall request. But at the eleventh hour, the car maker agreed to a partial recall to make free modifications to 1.56 million SUVs, and provide a “customer service action” to the remaining ones.

Jeep Cherokee RecallOn June 3, 2013, NHTSA issued a formal letter stating that the 1993–2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002–07 Liberty caused “unreasonable risk” to passengers because their fuel tanks, positioned at the rear of the vehicle, were likely to explode upon impact. The government got involved after the Center for Auto Safety collected reports of 157 fire deaths in Grand Cherokees, including two four-your-olds who died in two separate incidents in which the SUVs they were riding in were rear-ended and then exploded.

Chrysler, while admitting no liability, has agreed to a mandatory recall only of the 1993–98 Grand Cherokee and the 2002–2007 Jeep Liberty, excluding the 1999–2004 Grand Cherokees (about 1.1 million SUVs). The recalled vehicles will be fitted for free with Chrysler’s own Mopar trailer hitch, which is thought to make the vehicle safer by absorbing part of the impact if the SUV is rear-ended. Chrysler will offer owners of the 1.1 million excluded Grand Cherokees a “customer service action” to assess the condition of their trailer hitches, and either replace the hitches for free if they are in poor condition, or install them at the owners’ expense if their SUVs do not have a hitch already.

Some consumer advocacy groups—as well as victims injured in Jeep crashes—argue that the trailer-hitch solution is entirely inadequate. They say trailer hitches may even worsen the risk of explosion if the hitch pierces the fuel tank during a crash.

Although Chrysler has not acknowledged that the Jeeps in question were defective, those who have been involved in crashes with a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Liberty may have legal recourse against the manufacturer to recover accident-related expenses.

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