After much debating and hand-wringing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now says it has "no reservations" with Chrysler's plan to recall certain Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee models over concerns that their fuel tanks, which are located behind the rear axle, could rupture or leak in the event of a rear impact. The longstanding argument between the two entities saw Chrysler openly defy the Feds after a request to recall 2.7 million units back in June.
Chrysler's "voluntary campaign" will instead see it recall 1.56-million 1993-2004 model year Grand Cherokee SUVs, along with 2002-2007 Liberty models. Affected vehicles will get a trailer hitch installed free of charge, which Chrysler says will provide an additional degree of protection for the fuel tanks in the event of a crash. Jeeps with Mopar-branded hitches or hitches that were installed at the factory aren't affected by this recall.
Chrysler's argument throughout this battle has been that the Jeeps in question are no more susceptible to fires than comparable vehicles from the same time period, a position that NHTSA has seemingly arrived at as well. "Those vehicles performed at a rate similar to their peers. That is the keystone analysis as to whether something poses an unreasonable risk to safety," said outgoing NHTSA boss David Strickland during an interview with the The Associated Press.
While the decision between NHTSA and Chrysler seems reasonable, The Center for Auto Safety, which instigated the original investigation, isn't exactly pleased with this outcome. Following word of the resolution, Clarence Ditlow, the advocacy group's director, had this to say: "It is tragic that NHTSA approved Chrysler's sham trailer hitch recall for Jeeps that explode in rear impacts."