Jeep Recall Repair Delays May Have Caused 4 Deaths, Result in Fine

Government transportation safety officials say that Chrysler dragged its feet in issuing a Jeep recall that ultimately impacted 2.5 million vehicles, and is taking too long to make repairs necessary prevent gas tanks from exploding, suggesting that the delays may have already resulted in four deaths. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a letter on July 2, indicating that the auto-maker is moving too slow to repair Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty model SUVs that appear to have a design defect linked to at least 51 fiery crashes over the past three years.

About 1.5 million Grand Cherokee vehicles from the 1993 to 1998 model years and another 1 million Jeep Liberty vehicles from the 2002 through 2007 model years have been recalled, due to the risk of fires in rear-end accidents, as the gas tank is located behind the rear axle, which is typically referred to as the “crunch zone”.

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After fighting attempts by federal safety officials to have the vehicles recalled, Chrysler now anticipates that repairs will begin on August 1. However, the NHTSA letter indicates that at least four additional people have died in fires involving the vehicles since the recall was issued.

At Chrysler’s current pace, the Jeep recall repairs could take almost five years to fix every affected vehicle, and two years if only half of the owners come forward. NHTSA indicates that Chrysler Group has until July 16 to respond to the agency’s request for information on the delay or could face fines of up to $35 million.

After concerns were raised about the safety of Jeep vehicles, Chrysler initially rejected an NHTSA request to recall the vehicles, maintaining that the agency’s determination that the vehicles are unsafe was invalid.

It was not until the NHTSA produced a three year back-track of accident reports involving fatal fiery rear-end collisions in the SUV’s and four more people dying in fiery crashes during the “denial stage” that Chrysler Group agreed that a “public concern” was present.

In June 2013, Chrysler Group agreed to the recall and sent letters to all 2.5 million owners notifying them of the hazard and the repair strategy. Chrysler detailed in their recall letter that the company would have the vehicles equipped with a factory or Mopar brand trailer hitch that would bolt to the frame of the SUV’s to offer greater protection to the gas tank in the event of the collision.

The letter from the NHTSA claims the repairs are taking too long to fix. The recall was issued more than a year ago and the NHTSA’s approved the hitch mounting fix in early January 2014, but production of the hitches was not initiated by Chrysler Group until May of this year.

Photo courtesy of halidCan! (: via Flickr Creative Commons

Image Credit: |Photo courtesy of halidCan! (: via Flickr Creative Commons

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