On June 5, 2013, Chrysler Group LLC, who many feel owes its existence to the $12.5 billion payout by American taxpayers in 2009, took the extremely rare step of rejecting a safety recall requested by the US auto safety regulatory, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA] despite the fact the rate of collisions in Chrysler’s Grand Cherokee and Liberty was double that of other sport utility vehicles.

Here, NHTSA requested that Chrysler recall and repair 1993-2004 model Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicles.  NHTSA reports that these vehicles were involved in 37 rear-end accidents that resulted in fires and 51 fatalities and that these vehicles have defective fuel tank design and placement.  The total number of vehicles affected is 2.7 million.

NHTSA provided this photo of a Grand Cherokee it says was involved in a fire crash.

This is the first time since 1996 that an automaker has blatantly refused a recall demand for safety concerns.  In a statement attempting to justify leaving vehicles NHTSA believes unsafe on the road Chrysler argued the vehicles, “do not pose an unreasonable risk” and NHTSA’s conclusions are “an incomplete analysis of the underlying data”.

Other observers suggested Chrysler balked for cost reasons, not safety issues, raising the spectra of yet another company placing profits before safety.  According to the WSJ article “Dennis Virag, president of Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Mich., estimated it could cost Chrysler about $200 a vehicle to comply with the recall, or about $540 million.  Other industry experts estimated that it could cost Chrysler between $350 and $400 a vehicle.”  For 2012 Chrysler netted $1.7 billion in profits as auto sales in the US, where Chrysler sells three out of four of its cars, rose to a five-year industry high of $14.5 million in 2012.  In 2012 Chrysler’s sales rose 21% vs. the industry average of 13%.  According to auto pricing site TrueCar.com consumers paid an average of $29,630 for a Chrysler in 2012, up about $1000 from 2011.

Click here to read the full Wall Street Journal article: Chrysler Balks at Jeep Recall

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “NHTSA hopes that Chrysler will reconsider its position and take action to protect its customers and the driving public.”  In its letter, NHTSA indicated that the rate of fatal rear-end collisions involving fires in the affected Grand Cherokee and Liberty was double that of sport-utility vehicles that also placed the fuel tank behind the rear axle.

Click here to read the NHTSA letter to Chrysler: June 3, 2013 Letter

In litigation involving auto manufacturers over the years, internal documents have shown some companies balanced the cost of recalls vs. the expected costs in litigation from suits for death and injuries, and concluded not to do a safety recall.  Only time will tell why Chrysler refused to help its customers here in the face of a NHTSA safety request because of a doubling of the safety rate in similar rear end fatal collisions.

Americans rely on their car manufactures to provide a safe well-designed vehicle.  Sadly, that is not often the case.  The Auto Defect Attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm has successfully represented many people injured from defective Toyotas, Fords, GM products and numerous other manufacturers and suppliers.  Often times, people involved in accidents do not examine the issues of defective vehicle design nor whether the car was truly crashworthy – does it contain the appropriate crash protection.  If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto crash, our attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm are available to consult with you.  Please contact our office at 800-481-1615 or email us