For at least the second time in its history, Chrysler is fighting a government requested recall of a vehicle it manufactures, causing a wave of backlash among the public on social media and consternation among regulators.
The car manufacturer said Tuesday that it would not recall 2.7 million Jeeps that the government feels are defective and prone to deadly fires in the event of a rear-impact collision.
The recall was requested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which regulates the safety of vehicles. NHTSA sent Chrysler a letter on Monday recommending they recall the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and the 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty. The request was the result of a two-year investigation by the agency.
Chrysler however, does not agree that the Jeeps are problematic. And may take their refusal to issue the recall all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to some media outlets.
The government’s recall request is based on 32 rear-impact collisions involving Jeep Grand Cherokees that caused fatal fires and resulted in 44 deaths. The Jeep Liberty has been tied to five such accidents and seven deaths, according to Monday’s NHTSA letter.
According to NHTSA, the location of the gas tank in the vehicles – behind the rear axle – could make them more vulnerable to being ruptured in an accident. NHTSA would like Chrysler to recall the vehicles and modify them to make them safer.
In defying the government request, Chrysler has said it believes NHTSA’s conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the data. In a strongly worded statement, Chrysler attacked the government’s data and contended the vehicles are safe.
The 2.7 million Jeeps in question did meet the federal vehicle safety standards when manufactured. But NHTSA has said that’s not enough – pointing out that meeting a minimum standard does not mean that “deadly problems” can simply be ignored when they are discovered.
Chrysler has until June 18 to respond to NHTSA and explain why it will not issue a recall.
If they manufacturer continues to dig in its feet, NHTSA could then formally declare a defect in the Jeeps. If Chrysler still does nothing, the agency can ask the Department of Justice to sue the carmaker and force a recall.
This is the second time Chrysler has refused to issue a recall at the government’s request. In 1996 Chrysler had a dispute with the government over an issue with its seatbelts, and took its battle all the way to federal court, and won.