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Chrysler Says No To NHTSA Recall Request

5:34 PM, Jun 17, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- We have a follow up to our year-long investigation into the safety of certain Jeep models.

Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA sent a letter to Chrysler asking the company to recall the remaining 2.7 million 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs still out on the roads.

The gas tanks in those vehicles, and where they are positioned, have been linked to dozens of fatal crashes where people burned to death.

Tuesday, Chrysler said it has no plans to recall any of these vehicles because the company believes they are safe and not defective.

A quick look at the gas tank of a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee shows it is exposed.  And this is what the government says can happen in a rear end crash.

Four-year-old Remington Walden burned to death on a Georgia road last year when the Jeep Grand Cherokee he was riding in was hit from behind.

NHTSA has spent the last two and a half years investigating safety concerns regarding the gas tanks in the 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Last year, the 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs were added to its probe.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compared the vehicles to other SUVs on the market and found that they have a performance and safety defect that led to 32 fatal rear end crashes involving the late model Jeep Grand Cherokees, where 44 people died, and at least five fatal rear end crashes involving the Jeep Liberty.

Chrysler disputes those numbers and says NHTSA's request to recall the vehicles is based on incomplete data analysis.

The agency began investigating the vehicles at the request of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety.

Last week, we brought you the story behind a recent accident involving one of the Jeep Grand Cherokees in question.

Jenelle Embrey survived a crash last October on I-181 in Virginia.  The driver of a big rig took his eyes off the road, and plowed into the back of Heather Santor's 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee going 65 miles an hour.

The Jeep then crashed into the car carrying Jenelle and her Dad.  She says everyone was alive, until a small fire broke out in the back of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

She's using her own money to pay for a graphic billboard with a bold message along several Virginia interstates. 

"I wanted it to resemble what really happens," Jenelle Embrey says.

NHTSA cites the October accident in the recall request they issued to Chrysler. 

Chrysler cited it too, in its response to NHTSA, but said it was most likely the force of a high energy crash hitting a stationary Jeep Grand Cherokee that caused the tragedy.

Right now, NHTSA has given Chrysler until June 18th to submit more analysis to the agency.  It is important to note that this is NHTSA's tentative recommendation to recall these vehicles and not a formal finding or conclusion.

According to NHTSA's letter, if Chrysler continues to hold out on a recall the agency may proceed to make an Initial Decision that the vehicles contain a safety related defect, and the agency will take steps to inform the public of the defect.

Auto experts tell us that is extremely rare.

So, if you've got one of these vehicles in question the Center for Auto Safety says you should limit your time in the 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees or 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty SUVs.

Chrysler says their vehicles are safe and that the safety of drivers and passengers is the company's first priority.  But, they say if you have a concern you should call their customer care line at 1-800-334-9200.

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