Chrysler resisting U.S. recall of 2.7 million Jeep vehicles

Tue Jun 4, 2013 7:12pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall and Deepa Seetharaman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC, in a rare move, is resisting a push by U.S. regulators to recall 2.7 million older model Jeep vehicles, saying on Tuesday that the request is based on an "incomplete analysis of the underlying data."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked for the recall Monday night after an investigation of the vehicles' fuel tanks. Chrysler has been working with NHTSA on this issue for nearly three years.

The NHTSA is seeking to recall the Jeep Grand Cherokee for model years 1993 to 2004 and the Jeep Liberty model years 2002 to 2007. The agency said the models have fuel tanks behind the axle, which leave them less protected in the event of a rear-end collision and could potentially cause a fuel leak and lead to fire.

Chrysler, the U.S. automaker majority-owned by Fiat FIA.MI, said in a statement that it does not intend to recall the SUVs and insisted that they are safe.

"The company stands behind the quality of its vehicles," Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. "All of us remain committed to continue working with NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of these vehicles."

It is unusual for automakers to challenge NHTSA on such safety issues. In a statement, David Strickland, the top U.S. automotive safety official, urged Chrysler to reconsider its decision.

"The driving public should know that NHTSA is actively investigating this issue and is requesting that Chrysler initiate a safety recall and notify all affected owners of the defect," he said. "NHTSA hopes that Chrysler will reconsider its position and take action to protect its customers and the driving public."

In a June 3 letter sent to Chrysler, NHTSA said its investigation revealed "numerous fire-related deaths and injuries, fires that did not lead to deaths and fuel leaks in rear impacts."   Continued...

Chrysler introduced June 16 the all-new 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee, more than 6 months before the 1999 North American International Auto Show, in Detroit's Cobo Center. jch/photo by John C. jch/SV/EB