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Chrysler blinks, agrees to recall 2.7 million Jeeps

Surprise decision averts what would have been one of biggest-ever showdowns between government and an automaker

Published June 18, 2013

DETROIT — Chrysler Group LLC has given in to government pressure and agreed to recall 2.7 million older Jeep models, after initially fighting a recall request from U.S. regulators.

The recall will affect Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs from model years 1993 to 2004 and Jeep Liberty SUVs from 2002 to 2007.

While Chrysler stood by its assertion that the vehicles are not defective, it acknowledged consumer apprehension about vehicle safety.

Chrysler, based in Auburn Hills, Michigan, said in a statement it reached an agreement with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which earlier this month asked the automaker to recall 2.7 million SUVs that the regulator said can catch fire after rear collisions. Chrysler had said it wouldn’t recall the vehicles.

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“Chrysler Group’s analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group,” the company said in the statement. “Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles.”

Chrysler’s decision averts what could have been the biggest U.S. showdown between an automaker and its safety regulator since the 1980s.

The government says 51 people have suffered fiery deaths in Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys that were hit from behind. Regulators claim that the position of the gas tank, behind the rear axle, makes the Jeeps more susceptible to a fiery crash than similar models.

Chrysler contended that the SUVs are as safe as other vehicles on the road from that era. The Jeeps, it says, met all federal safety standards when they were built, some more than two decades ago. Regulators are unfairly holding the vehicles to a new standard for fuel tank strength, Chrysler claims.

The company said it will do visual inspections of the vehicles and, if necessary, provide an “upgrade to the rear structure” to improve protection in low-speed crashes. It didn’t give details about the repair.

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