By Patrick Rall
Unless you live under a rock, you are probably familiar with the fact that the Chrysler Group recently denied a request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall millions of Jeeps over concerns that they are prone to burning in the event of a rear end collision. While Chrysler initially declined to issue a full recall of the 2.7L Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs, the company has recently announced a “voluntary campaign” to address the rear impact concerns.
It should be noted that this is not a recall as Chrysler believes that there is no problem with those Grand Cherokee and Liberty models included in the original NHTSA recall request. Chrysler has provided the NHTSA (and the media) with data that clearly shows that these vehicles are every bit as safe as comparable models from the same years while also pointing out that these vehicles met or exceeded all requirements set forth by the NHTSA. However, with so many media outlets blowing this whole mess out of proportion with the false reports of “Chrysler refuses recall” – the company will take some steps to improve the safety of the vehicles in question.
This new voluntary campaign applies to 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee models and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models. Under this order, Chrysler will inspect these vehicles as they are brought into the dealership and if the vehicle is already equipped with either the standard factory issue trailer hitch assembly or a unit from Mopar, no further modifications will be made. However, if no hitch assembly is present, the dealership will install a trailer hitch setup to help better protect the rear mounted fuel tank that is the cause of this whole mess.
While it may seem odd that Chrysler is installing a trailer hitch to prevent fires caused during rear end collisions, there are a few key notes that have been excluded by most large media sources who have been covering this story.
First, the initial NHTSA request to recall the 2.7 million vehicles that could be subject to this issue was just that – a request. Unlike many situations where an NHTSA investigation leads to a mandatory recall of a group of vehicles, the NHTSA was not requiring that Chrysler issue a big recall. The reason that the feds requested rather than ordering the recall is that in their investigations, they were unable to find any sort of flaw or defect within the system that made these vehicles more likely to catch fire. With mandated recalls, the NHTSA will study the affected vehicle, identify the symptoms, figure out what is causing them, figure out how to fix the problem and then tell the automaker exactly what do to. In the case of the Grand Cherokee and Liberty issue, the feds couldn’t find any sort of problem with the design or assembly of these 2.7 million vehicles that would make them more prone to catch fire. After all, if you take any vehicle with a rear mounted gas tank (and there are lots of them on the road) and slam a car into the rear – it might catch fire. Shy of relocating the gas tank, there is really no flawless fix for this situation…which is probably why the fuel tanks on those vehicles were relocated in later years. So, when the NHTSA came to Chrysler and basically said “we cannot find anything wrong with these vehicles but we want you to recall them and fix the problem that we cannot diagnose” – Chrysler said no.
Unfortunately, that started a whole big media circus and the result is that Chrysler was left with no real choice but to figure out some way to make both the NHTSA and the moronic “Safety groups” behind this whole fiasco happy. The result was to add the hefty hitch assembly that will help to better protect the gas tank in the event of a rear end impact. In the long run, this is really nothing more than sticking a pacifier in the mouth of a crying baby but considering that both the average consumer and the people running these safety watchdog groups aren’t as bright as most infants – this fix should work just fine.