Jeep SUV Recall
Written by Faith Anderson on June 19, 2013
Regulators Raise Safety Concerns Over Jeep SUVs
Despite safety concerns on the part of government regulators, Chrysler is expected to stand by its claim that the automaker’s SUVs are equally as safe as other vehicles on the road from that era. The company has argued that the Jeep models met all federal safety standards when they were initially manufactured, some more than 20 years ago. Chrysler claims that regulators are now unfairly holding the vehicles to a new standard for fuel tank strength, an argument that the company has successfully used in the past to resist a government recall. Once Chrysler formally rejects the Jeep SUV recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be tasked with finding the Jeeps to be defective and scheduling a hearing. Ultimately though, the NHTSA would need a federal court order to implement the auto recall.
Potential for Gas Tanks to Leak, Catch Fire
The NHTSA first launched an investigation into the potentially defective Jeep vehicles three years ago at the behest of Clarence Ditlow, director of the advocacy group Center for Auto Safety. In early June, the federal agency sent a letter to Chrysler asking the automaker to voluntarily recall Liberty models from 2002 through 2007 and Grand Cherokee models from 1993 to 2004, in light of the potential for the vehicles’ plastic gas tanks to rupture when hit from behind, increasing the risk of fuel being spilled and a fire being started. Chrysler responded publicly to the NHTSA letter, saying in a statement that the firm “does not intend to recall the vehicles.” Although Ditlow says the problem could be resolved by making a few changes that would cost roughly $100 per vehicle – or a total of $270 million (one-sixth of Chrysler’s profit in 2012) – the car company has refused recall the potentially dangerous vehicles.
Toddler Killed in Fiery Rear-End Collision
According to Chrysler, the number of rear-impact accidents involving a fire or a fuel leak in the affected Jeeps is “similar to comparable vehicles produced and sold during the time in question.” The NHTSA, however, found evidence of at least 32 rear-impact collisions and fires in Jeep Grand Cherokees that caused 44 deaths, including the 2012 death of a 4-year-old boy, and at least five rear-impact crashes in Jeep Libertys that resulted in seven deaths. According to a lawsuit filed against Chrysler on behalf of the 4-year-old, who was riding in a Grand Cherokee that was rear-ended and died when the vehicle was engulfed in flames, Chrysler placed the gas tank in a “crush zone” behind the rear axle, knew the location was dangerous, and failed to protect the gas tank from rupturing.
A Reputable Attorney Can Help You File a Claim
Chrysler rejected a similar recall request in 1996, when the NHTSA recommended that 91,000 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus vehicles be recalled for an alleged seat belt defect. The agency sued the automaker and won in federal court, but an appeals court ultimately reversed the decision, ruling that NHTSA officials had unfairly held Chrysler to a new standard. While the NHTSA concedes that the Jeeps now in question met federal safety standards when they were originally built, the agency says the standards are minimum requirements for car manufacturers, and “the existence of a minimum standard does not require NHTSA to ignore deadly problems.” Unfortunately, as Chrysler and the government engage in this public debate, owners of Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys are left to wonder if the vehicles are safe enough to continue using. If you have been involved in a serious motor vehicle accident that you believe was caused by a defective automobile or faulty auto part, consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to explore your possible compensation options.