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Local News

June 20, 2013

Chrysler agrees to recall of Jeeps at risk of fire

Dealers will inspect vehicles, install gas tank protection.

(Continued)

“What happened is they get surprised by how loud the hue and cry is. They didn’t want to take the public relations hit,” Gordon says.

Gordon says Chrysler’s image will still get dinged a little “because it looks as if they have done the right thing only because they were forced to.”

Chrysler executives probably realized that their chance for success was slim, because courts have given wide latitude to government regulatory agencies, says David Kelly, former acting NHTSA administrator under President George W. Bush.

“They have some very smart people at Chrysler and probably looked into a crystal ball and didn’t think this would end the way they wanted it to,” says Kelly. The automaker, he says, historically has been very committed to safety.

NHTSA said in a statement that it’s pleased with Chrysler’s decision. The agency plans to keep investigating the issue as it reviews recall documentation from Chrysler.

NHTSA began investigating the Jeeps at the request of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. Clarence Ditlow, the center’s director, says the trailer hitch remedy should be tested by NHTSA before the repairs are made. He’s cautiously optimistic that the solution will make the Jeeps safer.

“We’re no longer arguing over whether Chrysler is going to do a recall, but we’re now discussing what we’re going to do,” he says.

Chrysler will begin notifying owners about the recall in about a month, the company said.

The last time an automaker defied a NHTSA recall request was early in 2011, when Ford said that calling back 1.2 million pickup trucks for defective air bags wasn’t justified. Ford later agreed to the recall after NHTSA threatened to hold a rare public hearing on the issue.

In a statement one June 4, Chrysler said its review of nearly 30 years of data showed a low number of rear-impact crashes involving fire or a fuel leak in the affected Jeeps. “The rate is similar to comparable vehicles produced and sold during the time in question,” the company said. It also said NHTSA left some similar vehicles out of its investigation.

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