* Chrysler resists recall requested by U.S. regulators
* Top U.S. auto safety official urges Chrysler to reconsider
By Bernie Woodall and Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, June 4 Chrysler Group LLC, in a rare
move, is resisting a push by U.S. regulators to recall 2.7
million older model Jeep vehicles, saying on Tuesday that the
request is based on an "incomplete analysis of the underlying
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked for
the recall Monday night after an investigation of the vehicles'
fuel tanks. Chrysler has been working with NHTSA on this issue
for nearly three years.
The NHTSA is seeking to recall the Jeep Grand Cherokee for
model years 1993 to 2004 and the Jeep Liberty model years 2002
to 2007. The agency said the models have fuel tanks behind the
axle, which leave them less protected in the event of a rear-end
collision and could potentially cause a fuel leak and lead to
Chrysler, the U.S. automaker majority-owned by Fiat
, said in a statement that it does not intend to recall
the SUVs and insisted that they are safe.
"The company stands behind the quality of its vehicles,"
Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. "All of
us remain committed to continue working with NHTSA to provide
information confirming the safety of these vehicles."
It is unusual for automakers to challenge NHTSA on such
safety issues. In a statement, David Strickland, the top U.S.
automotive safety official, urged Chrysler to reconsider its
"The driving public should know that NHTSA is actively
investigating this issue and is requesting that Chrysler
initiate a safety recall and notify all affected owners of the
defect," he said. "NHTSA hopes that Chrysler will reconsider its
position and take action to protect its customers and the
In a June 3 letter sent to Chrysler, NHTSA said its
investigation revealed "numerous fire-related deaths and
injuries, fires that did not lead to deaths and fuel leaks in
The agency said in the 13-page letter that 51 people have
been killed in rear-end crashes and fires involving Grand
Cherokee and Liberty vehicles.
"Our data shows that these vehicles may contain a defect
that presents an unreasonable risk to safety, which is why we
took the next step of writing Chrysler," Strickland said.
The company said its analysis shows that fuel leaks and
fires occur "less than one time for every million years of
Chrysler has until June 18 to formally respond to NHTSA. If
Chrysler cannot convince NHTSA to drop the recall request, the
safety agency could hold a public hearing on the matter.
Eventually, Strickland, who is NHTSA's administrator, may
issue a final decision and order Chrysler to conduct a recall.
Even after that, Chrysler can challenge that order in federal
court. NHTSA can take Chrysler to court to comply with the
recall order. And, Chrysler may be forced to send letters to
owners of the affected vehicles that it is resisting NHTSA's
In the past several years, Chrysler has conducted 52
recalls, 49 of which were instigated by the automaker.
Refusing a recall is rare in the auto industry, although not
unheard of. The last time Chrysler refused to recall a vehicle
was in 1997. Toyota Motor Corp initially resisted the
recall of its 2010 Prius hybrid for brake problems.
Ford Motor Co recalled its Freestar and Monterey
minivans for transmission problems last year after years of
haggling with NHTSA.