NHTSA questions Chrysler about repair delays - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

NHTSA questions Chrysler about repair delays

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INDIANAPOLIS - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is demanding answers from Chrysler about the amount of time it is taking to make the repairs promised as part of a June 2013 recall of Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty sport utility vehicles. More than a year after the recall, NHTSA says Chrysler has not installed any of the promised trailer hitches that are supposed to protect the fuel tanks.

NHTSA says Chrysler plans to make the first repairs August 1, nearly 14 months after the recall.

Under pressure from NHTSA Chrysler agreed to recall 1.56 million SUVs -- the 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty. Federal investigators cited concerns about the rear-mounted fuel tank after at least 51 deaths.  Investigators determined that in rear-impact crashes, the fuel tank ruptured and caught far more often that it did in other similar vehicles.

Chrysler maintains its position that the vehicles do not have a performance or design defect.

In a 12-page letter sent Wednesday, NHTSA expressed frustration with how long it is taking to install the safety improvement on customer vehicles.  Chief Counsel Kevin Vincent wrote, “Although NHTSA acknowledges that recall campaigns may have low completion rates for any number of reasons, the agency has no intention of allowing Chrysler, or any other manufacturer, to delay recall completion to the detriment of safety.”

Specifically NHTSA wants to why Chrysler waited until December 6 to select a hitch supplier, and why it waited until January 29 to place the order for the hitches.  NHTSA says Chrysler reported the first batch of new trailer hitches was produced on May 14, nearly 11 months after the recall.

NHTSA is also concerned with the scheduled rate of production.  Federal officials say it appears it will take Chrysler 4.7 years to make all the parts for the Grand Cherokee repairs and 2.06 years to make all the Liberty parts. 

“For many owners, a recall remedy deferred by parts availability easily becomes a defect remedy denied,” Vincent wrote.  “Moreover, additional delays in implementing this recall will inure to Chrysler’s benefit at the expense of vehicle owner safety.”

Chrysler says it has been working closely with NHTSA during the recall process and the agency was aware of each step along the way.  In a written response to 13 Investigates Chrysler said, “Launching a safety recall demands complex engineering and close coordination with NHTSA well before an auto maker accumulates replacement parts. To accommodate the high-volume production required for this campaign, Chrysler Group had to find and enlist multiple new supplier partners to supply volume of this part that  far exceeded normal demand.”

In 2013, NHTSA originally asked Chrysler to recall 2.7 million vehicles, but the automaker refused and instead proposed the more limited recall with the trailer hitch remedy.

Safety experts are critical of the proposed trailer hitch remedy, saying it will not do enough to protect fuel tanks during rear-impact crashes.

In response, NHTSA asked Chrysler to conduct new crash tests because the original information about the repair was “insufficient.”   NHTSA then took the unusual step of running its own tests. In January, NHTSA told Chrysler it “did not have any reservations” about the trailer hitch remedy.  In July, NHTSA released a public report of the results.

Chrysler sent WTHR the following response to NHTSA’s demand for answers:

Chrysler Group welcomes the findings of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to the agency, after conducting and analyzing eight rear impact crash reconstruction tests, NHTSA informed Chrysler that "it did not have any reservations about implementation of Chrysler's proposed remedy."  This reflect Chrysler Group's longstanding position - supported in the public record by real-world data - that the vehicles are not defective. They are among the safest in their peer groups and met or exceeded the standards in effect at time they were first sold. We remain unwavering in our commitment to design, engineer and build vehicles that afford outstanding customer safety and security.
 
We note that this campaign has been conducted in close coordination with NHTSA. The agency has had full knowledge of our activities.  Chrysler Group complied with all applicable regulations governing recalls, and has been working with NHTSA all along  in this process. 
 
Launching a safety recall demands complex engineering and close coordination with NHTSA well before an auto maker accumulates replacement parts. To accommodate the high-volume production required for this campaign, Chrysler Group had to find and enlist multiple new supplier partners to supply volume of this part that  far exceeded normal demand.
 
Parts production has commenced. Our supplier partners are committed to a work schedule of three shifts per day, six days per week, with occasional Sunday production. Chrysler Group has already contacted affected customers and advised them of our intentions. They will be contacted again when the time is appropriate to schedule service. The cost of this work will be borne by the Company.

Previous Stories

13 Investigates: Recall Under Fire

NHTSA Chief: Jeep recall required pushing, prodding, threats against Chrysler

Jeep owners sent recall notices

Feds wrap up Jeep fuel tank investigation


Links and resources

Center for Auto Safety 

Oct. 2, 2009 – CAS Petitions NHTSA for fuel tank investigation


Dec. 13, 2012 – Chrysler's Response to NHTSA's request for Information

June 3, 2013 - NHTSA letter to Chrysler

June 4, 2013 - Chrysler white paper in response to NHTSA recall request

June 18, 2013 - Chrysler response to NHTSA recall request 

June 18, 2013 - Chrysler details recall plans

June 20, 2013 - Center for Auto Safety objects to Chrysler recall plans

July 2014 – Results of NHTSA’s crash reconstruction test

July 2, 2014 – NHTSA’s demand for answers about repair times

July 3, 2014 – Chrysler’s initial public response to questions about repair time


Jeep Grand Cherokee recall petition

Limited recall of older-model Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys

Center for Auto Safety's white paper on concerns about Chrysler recall plans


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