Chrysler is refusing to recall 2.7 million vehicles to fix fuel tank problems that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says made the cars more susceptible to catching fire when rear-ended and may have caused at least 338 deaths.
The issue involves the placement of fuel tanks in 1993 to 2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees. Those vehicles have fuel tanks located behind the rear bumper, which critics say make the tanks more likely to rupture and leak fuel during rear-end crashes, which increases the probability of the vehicles catching fire.
NHTSA launched an investigation on 1993 to 2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees in 2010 at the request of an advocacy group. The Administration later expanded the probe to include 1993 to 2001 Jeep Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberties, which also have fuel tanks located just behind the rear bumper.
NHTSA wants Chrysler to recall the Grand Cherokees and Liberties saying they are unsafe, but in a rare rebuff, the automobile company says it will not issue the recall. Chrysler claims that many other vehicles have fuel tanks with similar placement behind the rear bumper, and that the fatalities involved in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty vehicles under investigation were almost all high-speed, high-energy crashes in which different placement of the fuel tank would have made no difference.
Last fall, Chrysler recalled nearly a million of its Jeep vehicles worldwide, including 2002 to 2004 model year Grand Cherokees and Liberties due to defects in the front and side airbags that can cause them to go off at any moment. The company also announced that it is discontinuing making the Liberty, a smaller SUV.