Chrysler announced Tuesday that it would not be recalling approximately 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokees and Liberties which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found had a defect that could result in a dangerous fire.
Earlier this week, the NHTSA formerly demanded that Chrysler issue a recall on the vehicles for an alleged defect regarding their fuel tanks following a long-running investigation
, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The tanks are located behind the rear axle and in rear-end collisions are prone to catch fire, according to the NHTSA. The agency tallied 51 deaths in Liberties and Grand Cherokees which caught fire after being struck in the rear.
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According to the 2010 investigation, the NHTSA concluded that 1993 to 2004 model year Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Liberties are more prone to fuel leaks and fires than other vehicles with fuel tanks mounted in similar locations, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On Tuesday, the automaker issued what it referred to as a "white paper" in response to the recall request, in which it stated that its, "vehicles are not defective and their fuel systems do not pose an unreasonable risk
to motor vehicle safety."
The press release from the Michigan automaker also placed doubt on the NHTSA's analysis of their cars.
"We believe NHTSA’s initial 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," the company's statement read.
"Our analysis shows the incidents, which are the focus of this request, occur less than once for every million years of vehicle operation. This rate is similar to comparable vehicles produced and sold during the time in question."
Chrysler Group's Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne also voiced his opposition to the recall while attempting to reassure customers of the company's commitment to their safety.
"The safety of drivers and passengers has long been the first priority for Chrysler brands and that commitment remains steadfast," Marchionne said in the release. "The company stands behind the quality of its vehicles. All of us remain committed to continue working with NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of these vehicles."
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Despite being the nation’s auto safety regulator, the NHTSA cannot enforce recalls unless it petitions the Justice Department to sue on its behalf. Such a step is extremely rare, the Los Angeles Times notes, adding that in most cases automakers who initially refuse a recall request usually succumb to it following negative publicity and mounting pressure from consumers.
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