Typically, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends a recall, automakers voluntarily comply. Sometimes, carmakers will even initiate and carry out a recall without prompting from the government agency. But recalls, especially those of a large magnitude affecting a large quantity of vehicles, can be an extremely expensive and complex undertaking.
In a rare move, at least publicly, Chrysler is challenging NHTSA's recommendation that it recall up to 2.7 million 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty and 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles for what the agency is alleging is an unsafe fuel system design, in which the fuel tank is placed aft of the rear axle, making it more vulnerable to a rear-impact collision. Chrysler cites NHTSA's 2003 statement and conclusion that placement of the vehicle fuel tank behind the rear axle was not an inherently unsafe design, and claims that the agency is holding the company to a standard of fuel tank integrity that did not exist at the time of the vehicles' manufacture, and does not exist for current models.
The company also cites data showing many other vehicle models with a higher rate of fatal rear-impact collisions than the Grand Cherokee or Liberty, even those with the "safer" midship fuel tank layout. The company claims full compliance with the NHTSA Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 301.
Chrysler also cites the specific circumstances of one fatal crash involving a Grand Cherokee in which the vehicle was rear-ended by a Class 8 tractor-trailer at 65 mph while the vehicle was stationary, an impact that exceeded required safety standards by 23 times.