Chrysler too slow to fix Jeep fuel-tank risk, regulators say

Wed Jul 2, 2014 2:34pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators are demanding an explanation for what they say is Chrysler's slow pace in making fixes to protect rear fuel tanks in older model Jeep SUVs even though the regulators have accepted the automaker's remedy in the case of lower-speed crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Wednesday that at Chrysler's current pace it would take nearly five years to fix all of the affected Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs involved in a recall announced last June.

In response, NHTSA has issued a "special order" signed by its chief counsel, O. Kevin Vincent, mandating that Chrysler produce documents to explain the pace of Chrysler's recall efforts. The documents must be presented to the NHTSA by July 16.

The affected vehicles are the Jeep Grand Cherokee for model years 1993 to 1998 and Jeep Liberty from 2002 to 2007.

In June 2013, Chrysler recalled 1.56 million Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs after initially resisting NHTSA's request for the recalls.

At the time, Chrysler said placement of a trailer hitch assembly would protect occupants in the event of low- or medium-speed rear-end crashes.

Chrysler said its suppliers are working six days a week to make the trailer hitches and that customers will be notified when it is time to schedule service of their SUVs.

NHTSA has long maintained that the placement of the fuel tanks behind the rear axle has left them less protected in the event of rear-end crashes, and could cause fuel leaks and fires. At the time of last June's recall, NHTSA had linked 51 deaths to the problem.   Continued...

A Chrysler logo is pictured at the Jacob Javits Convention Center during the New York International Auto Show in New York April 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri