Deadline looms for Chrysler to agree to recall Jeeps


June 18, 2013 is the deadline for Chrysler to give its final answer as to whether it will agree to recall more than two million Jeep Grand Cherokees and Liberty SUVs. Early indications are that it will not, but pressure is mounting on the automaker to change its mind.

In one rear-end crash test, conducted by the non-profit Center for Auto Safety, is what has Nancy Bain of Palo Alto extremely concerned.

"I think about my two kids and God help us all if we ever get into an accident. I'm a careful driver, a very experienced driver, but you never know, accidents happen," said Nancy Bain, a Palo Alto resident.

Nancy owns a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has asked Chrysler to voluntarily recall model years 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and also model years 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty SUV.

Regulators say rear collisions and subsequent fires have caused the deaths of 51 people nationwide. Chrysler has until Tuesday to make its final decision. Clarence Ditlow is with the Center for Auto Safety -- an organization dedicated to studying safety defects in vehicles.

"There are 2.7 million Jeeps on the road with defected fuel systems. That if they've hit from behind they can go up in flames," said Ditlow.

Chrysler strongly disagrees with that conclusion. In a statement it sent to 7 On Your Side it said, the problems cited by regulators "are based on incomplete analysis of the underlying data. The company does not agree with the National Highway Traffic's Safety Administration's conclusions" and "does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation."

Chrysler also released a white paper which said its own analyses found, "[in] the incidents cited by NHTSA, the crash force was far in excess of the rear crash fuel leak requirements in place at that time."

Chrysler said it found 24 other models which had a higher rate of fuel leak incidents than the targeted Jeep vehicles."

"I was hoping to hear that they would do a recall and that they would pay for any repairs," said Bain.

Bain is one of more than 127,000 people who signed a petition on demanding that Chrysler agree to a voluntary recall. It was a petition started by Jenelle Embrey of Virginia. She saw a mother and teenager burn to death in a Jeep after being hit by a tractor trailer.

"If something cost a lot of money, it seems that people burning to death are OK with Chrysler," said Embrey.

In another crash test, a Ford Taurus traveling at 40 miles an hour collides with a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The engineering firm Karco conducted the test for the Center for Auto Safety. Karco says a solvent used to simulate fuel leaked out of the fuel tank from two locations.

"It had been an ignition source, there would have been a catastrophic fire," said Ditnlow.

Chrysler has not directly commented on the Karco findings.

Chief federal regulator David Strickland has asked Chrysler to reconsider its initial decision. If it doesn't a public hearing would be held that could ultimately end with an order for Chrysler to issue a recall.

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