This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about Chrysler refusing a request from the federal government to issue a safety recall on certain Jeep models.
There was extensive coverage of Chrysler’s refusal to recall 2.7 million Jeep vehicles in spite of a request made by the NHTSA. The three major network news broadcasts devoted over four minutes to the topic and the story was covered extensively in both national and local print media as well as in many local news broadcasts. Coverage of the NHTSA was neutral in tone with most reports noting that it is extremely rare for automaker to refuse a request made by the NHTSA to issue a recall.
ABC World News reported that “today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called on Chrysler to recall all older model Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Liberties, saying the defect presents an unreasonable risk because people [in the vehicles] and in striking vehicles have burned to death in rear-impact crashes.” However, the CBS Evening News noted that “in a rare move today, Chrysler refused the recall request insisting that the cars are safe.” Meanwhile, “it would take a court order to force a recall.” NBC Nightly News noted that the vehicles in question are “Jeep Grand Cherokees from ‘93 through ‘04 model years and Jeep Liberties from 2002 through ‘07.”
The New York Times reports that “the refusal has ignited a rare public battle between Chrysler, the nation’s third-largest automaker, and federal regulators.” Chrysler said in a statement, “We believe N.H.T.S.A.’s initial conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data, and we are committed to continue working with the agency to resolve this disagreement.” Meanwhile, “the agency said it may pursue a formal decision to label the vehicles defective, which would include public hearings and the release of details of the government’s investigation.”
The AP points out that “David Strickland, the agency’s administrator, said in a statement that he hopes Chrysler will reconsider its decision. ‘Our data shows that these vehicles may contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety,’ Strickland said.”
USA Today reports, “Government data show 44 deaths in 32 rear-end crashes and fires involving the Grand Cherokees that it wants recalled, and seven deaths in five Liberty rear-impact/fire crashes.” However, “Adjusted for the number of Jeeps on the road, the Grand Cherokees had a rear-crash fire death rate of just 1 per million registered vehicle years; the Liberty, 0.9” Meanwhile, “NHTSA says similar SUVs sold by other companies had rates of around 0.5, so the Jeeps ‘are poor performers.’”
Bloomberg News relates that “NHTSA’s letter, written by Frank Borris, enforcement director of the agency’s defects investigations office, included pictures of burned and burning Jeep models involved in accidents.” Meanwhile, “Chrysler said in its statement that all the vehicles under scrutiny meet or exceed federal safety standards, including those relating to fuel-system integrity.” However, “Karen Aldana, a NHTSA spokeswoman, said she didn’t have an immediate response to Chrysler’s statement.”
The Los Angeles Times explains that “as the nation’s auto safety regulator, the NHTSA has the power to request recalls, but it cannot enforce them. To do so, it must ask the Justice Department to sue on its behalf.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.