A 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
(USA TODAY) -- Chrysler Group has done an about-face and says it will recall 2.7 million Jeeps, as the government had requested.
Affected: 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says those are involved
in deadly fires after rear crashes too often. Chrysler had been
insisting that was untrue.
says it will have dealers conduct "visual inspection of the vehicle"
and "will, if necessary, provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the
vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts."
Chrysler is taking the step to avoid prolonged bad publicity that would result in an ongoing dispute with NHTSA.
The automaker notes that "this
matter has raised concerns for its customers" even though, Chrysler
continues to assert, the Jeeps are among the safest vehicles among their
NHTSA could have convened public hearings in which
its staff unreeled the most damning information possible, accompanied
by a parade of people who lost loved ones in Jeep fires, often
accompanied by gruesome video and photos of the fatalities.
Chrysler could have, eventually, come out OK by refusing to recall.
• History shows automakers often win such showdowns with NHTSA and don't wind up recalling the vehicles.
all the Grand Cherokees and many of the Liberties are beyond the
10-year limit for recalls. Chrysler could have been stubborn and refused
to pay for any modifications to those models even if there were a
• Car shoppers apparently didn't care about
Chrysler's stand. Online shopping sites said the traffic on their sites
hadn't shown any evidence of boycotting. Shopping site Kelley Blue
Book's kbb.com says, "Shopper interest has been unaffected" by
Chrysler's stance. There has been no "depreciable drop in vehicle
values" during the standoff, kbb.com says.
because the Jeeps involved are so old. The recall "does not involve
current model-year SUVs or even SUVs from the current style," says
AutoTrader editor Brian Moody. "The current Jeep vehicles are so
fundamentally different that it may not matter as much to the average
Chrysler has data showing the death rate in the
Jeeps from fires in rear-crash accidents is insignificantly higher than
in other SUVs of the period. And it has charted some two dozen vehicles
with higher death rates that haven't been recalled.
Those would be strong arguments in a data battle with NHTSA and in a court case.
the Center for Auto Safety says it was working to show that the deaths
in those other vehicles were caused by the crash itself, not by a fire
Clarence Ditlow, head of the center, an advocacy
group, said it had preliminary data Monday night showing it was on the
right track. Ditlow said he expected to have complete data today showing
that few or none of the vehicles Chrysler said were worse than the
Jeeps were, in fact, worse.
Ditlow suggested that Chrysler add a
skid plate to the 90% of the Jeeps that didn't have it as a factory
option. Skid plates are sold as protection against rocks and downed
trees in off-road driving.
He also said Chrysler could have
installed longer fuel-filler hoses so they wouldn't pull off the tank
and cause a leak as easily in a rear crash.