AUBURN HILLS (WWJ) – After weeks of fighting a government request that it recall older Jeep Grand Cherokees and Liberties, Chrysler has decided that it will go along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Facing a Tuesday deadline for its formal answer, Chrysler decided that it will send recall notices to the vehicle’s owners.
“Chrysler Group will conduct a voluntary campaign with respect to the vehicles in question that, in addition to a visual inspection of the vehicle will, if necessary, provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts,” read a statement from the company.
Safety advocates applauded Chrysler’s change of heart.
“I’m glad that Chrysler is doing something to prevent the deaths of any more victims of rear-end accidents in Jeeps,” said Janelle Embrey of Virginia, who had organized a Monday protest at a Washington DC Jeep dealership.
The government had connected 51 fatalities to the vehicles, which safety advocates charged had faulty fuel tanks.
Chrysler had challenged the findings as faulty. But, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had never backed off on its contention that the vehicles needed to be recalled.
Had Chrysler continued with its challenge to the recall, it could have faced a lengthy hearing, and lots of negative publicity.
“Chrysler couldn’t afford that,” said analyst Michelle Krebs with Edmunds.com.
Krebs says even though Chrysler’s brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee was not a part of the recall, and is a totally new design, it’s sales could have been hurt by implication.
“That is a vehicle that Chrysler can not have damaged in terms of reputation and sales,” said Krebs. “That is the backbone of Jeep and Chrysler sales.”
It’s very difficult for car companies to contest recalls. Many analysts believe Chrysler was only willing to push the issue so far, and had reached that point.
“Though the Chrysler data points to no flaws in their vehicles, the voluntary recall shows how important they want the drivers in their vehicles to feel – safe,” said Jared Rowe, president of Kelley Blue Book. “Chrysler has been gradually improving market share since 2009 because of the improvements they have made to their product lineup and their stance could only help to improve their brand image and sales
This decision, Chrysler says, does not mean the company is backing off on its claims that the Jeeps are safe. The company says it’s ordering the recall to make sure customers are re-assured: “Chrysler Group regards safety as a paramount concern and does not compromise on the safety of our customers and their families,” the automaker said, in a statement.
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