Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep's saga with the National Traffic Safety Administration and the voluntary campaign to repair 1.56 million vehicles for allegedly unsafe trailer hitches, is getting yet another chapter. The controversy appeared to finally be over in January when the automaker found a supplier for the replacement parts. Nothing is ever that easy, though, and the government regulator is now requesting documents from the company to clarify why the repairs are taking so long to begin.

Jeep parent company Chrysler has until July 16 to submit documents and answers to NHTSA explaining the situation. The regulator claims that despite its compromise to inspect and repair the models with improper hitches in June 2013, Chrysler didn't find a part supplier until December and didn't order the replacements until January. The government agency believes that the first components weren't manufactured until May of this year and vehicles may not actually be repaired until as late as August. According to the report, if the Chrysler doesn't supply what NHTSA is asking for, the agency could "take additional appropriate action as warranted."

Throughout this entire process, Chrysler has asserted that the vehicles met the applicable crash test standards of the time, and it has kept NHTSA abreast of the repair activity. In a recently released statement it said that the regulator analyzed eight rear impact reconstruction tests and found the replacement hitch to be safe. To keep up with the high demand for replacements, Chrysler is working with multiple suppliers, and they are running three shifts, six days a week to get the parts ready as soon as possible.

The argument between the Chrysler and NHTSA goes back to June 2013 when the automaker made the atypical decision to deny the recall request for the 2002-2007 Liberty and 1993-1998 Grand Cherokee. The regulator believed that the trailer hitch could puncture the fuel tank in a rear-end crash, which could lead to a fire. NHTSA originally requested about 2.7 million Jeeps be recalled, but eventually compromised down to a voluntary campaign for about 1.5 million vehicles. Scroll down to read Chrysler's official statement about the investigation.
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STATEMENT: RESPONSE TO NHTSA SPECIAL ORDER

July 3, 2014 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - 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 reflects Chrysler Group's long-standing 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 the 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 automaker 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.