Chrysler's recall refusal risks its rising reputation
The carmaker claims the government's analysis is flawed, but public opinion isn't likely to stay on the company's side.
At issue is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's request for Chrysler to recall more than 2.7 million Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks that NHTSA says makes them susceptible to catching fire in a rear-end crash. The affected models are the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has had 32 crashes resulting in 44 deaths, and the 2002-07 Jeep Liberty, which has had five accidents resulting in seven deaths.
According to Chrysler, which is controlled by Italy's Fiat, NHTSA's 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."
In the court of public opinion, however, discussions of statistical analysis aren't going to reverberate, especially when TV news shows continue to show horrifying images of Chrysler vehicles engulfed in flames. The Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit that pushed for the recall, has accused the automaker of placing profits above safety.
"In NHTSA's history of defect investigations and recalls, there has never been one where four-year-old children in child restraints have burned to death in fire crashes until now," according to a letter the center sent to the agency.
Chrysler appears to be ignoring the lessons of the 2009 dust-up between regulators and Toyota (TM) over the risk of sudden acceleration. It took the Japanese automaker quite a while to recover from the resulting public relations drubbing.
For Chrysler, the timing of this fight couldn't be worse.
Like other automakers, Chrysler's sales are soaring, thanks to the improving U.S. economy. Sales in May jumped 11% versus a year ago, the company's best monthly performance since 2007. Its credibility with consumers has been improving in recent years as well.
According to Edmunds.com, the company has made "major improvements in the performance, design and quality of its midsize sedan entry, the 200. The latest 300 also stands as a prime choice for a premium full-size sedan."
While falling short of gushing praise, those comments represent hard-fought gains for a much-beleaguered brand -- and they could be endangered by Chrylser's short-sightedness in fighting the recall.
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter@ jdberr.
Damn, hang those guys at Chrysler, 49 deaths in 20 years in jeeps caused by fire. But lets not stop there, we need to dig deep and find a way to stop the other 750,000 deaths during that period. We need to dig deep and find those deep pockets.
Ok, I'm not against correcting a problem but this doesn't compare to the Flaming Fords of the 70's-80's. It surely doesn't need to be presented in a light that the company is trying to cover up something.
Common Sense Reporting is all I want.
This is a problem caused by the placement of the fuel tank behind the rear axle. These vehicles were designed that way and there is no other place to put the tank on vehicles already built, which would seem to be the only way to fix the problem.
To me it's a simple case of government regulators with no knowledge of automobile design demanding the impossible from Chrysler.
I'm reminded of the inception of airbags back in 1990. All the Naderites demanded bags capable of protecting an UNBELTED driver (diety forbid anyone be required to take any responsibility for their own safety by clicking a seatbelt). When injuries occurred due to these powerful bags the same Naderites blamed the mfgs., not their own insistence on overpowered airbags.
Another case of government overreaching without regard to reality. The statistical data says these vehicles are no less safe than their peers when they were built, yet the nanny state sees what they believe to be an anomaly and needs to justify their existence in the court of public opinion. Perhaps everyone forgets that these vehicles passed all applicable federal safety standards when they were sold. If anyone is to blame, then blame the regulators who apparently were negligent in their crash testing.
It's truly tragic when people die in vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, in spite of over a hundred years of advances in safety and medical treatment, people still die in vehicle accidents. There will never come a time when vehicle fatalities will be completely eliminated. It's good that we try to reduce that risk, but there comes a time when people need to stop blaming and need to examine their own motives.
Maybe the people following to close in the first place should shoulder the blame along with the people driving to fast complaining about the brakes. Been driving for 45 + years is cars that have had a lot worse problems than the cars on the market now. IT is not NASCAR out there on our highways people. Just try to maintain your safety zone around your car some days and watch the other IDIOTS fill it in trying in the worst way to get past you. Just remember this is not a farm boy talking couldt give a lot of you a little tap on the left rear fender and watch you figure that one out.
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