Chrysler and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have had a publicly contentious relationship over the past few years, largely stemming from a disagreement over the need to fix Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee models for what NHTSA considered a vulnerable fuel tank. Chrysler claimed the models met all applicable federal safety requirements when manufactured, but NHTSA persisted, and Chrysler ultimately agreed to proceed with a recall campaign. But the drama did not end there. Earlier this month, the agency accused the company of unnecessary delays in implementing the recall campaign, claiming it would take up to five years to fix all affected vehicles. To counter NHTSA’s accusations, the company issued a nine-page release detailing the logistics and timeline of its proposed fix.
The first issue Chrysler addresses is the availability of hitch assembly units, the agreed-upon fix to add more protection around the rear-mounted fuel tank. Chrysler said its supplier, Northern Stamping, Inc. (NSI), was able to release the capacity of two more manufacturing cells, allowing for expedited manufacturing of hitch assemblies. The second item Chrysler addresses in the letter is the number of models estimated to still be on the road and operational. Since some of the models as part of the recall campaign are more than 20 years old, Chrysler estimates less than half the Grand Cherokees involved in the recall are still on the road, and approximately 130,000 fewer Liberty models are registered and operational than were originally produced.
Finally, Chrysler addresses the issue of owner notification and how responsive notified owners will be in getting their vehicles fixed. Chrysler expects to have a sufficient quantity of hitches available in dealer stock or regional parts warehouses by March 2015 to complete the campaign and have all the hitches installed by March 2016—even if all notified owners elect to have the recall performed.