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Maker Insists Feds Overstate Risk Of Fires With Grand Cherokee, Liberty Models
It's not often that recall stories make it above the fold, in that old newspaper parlance, but when one shows up as the lead story on the network evening news programs, you know it's something big.
And so it is with Chrysler snubbing its nose at a request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall 2.7 million Jeeps the feds insist are at risk of potentially catastrophic fuel tank fires in a rear-end collision.
Almost five years after US taxpayers bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, a large majority of their slimmed-down dealership networks are posting soaring profits, Bloomberg reports, and contributing to the US auto industry on track this year to deliver 15.4 million vehicles, the most since 16.15 million were delivered in 2007.
Consider another important figure: Bloomberg says that more than 90 percent of GM dealerships are profitable, compared to about half of them in 2008 and 2009. At the start of 2013, GM had 4,355 US dealerships and Chrysler had about 2,600. Compare that with just a few years ago, when GM had 6,246 dealers in 2008, while Chrysler had 3,200 in 2009.
As part of their bankruptcy restructuring, both GM and Chrysler decided that their retail networks contained far too many dealerships and insisted that they be slimmed down. The resultant dealership terminations followed by a rebounding auto market - in part due to better new GM and Chrysler vehicles - have increased the number of sales per dealership to record levels. Many dealers are taking advantage of increasing profits and investing in facility renovations and updates, such as Chrysler dealership owner David Kelleher. He's spending $2 million to expand his store.
Bob Lutz, the well-known executive with a range of automakers including both General Motors and Chrysler, says he supports Chrysler for not caving under federal pressure to issue a recall on 2.7 million Jeep vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is arguing that the plastic fuel tanks positioned behind the axles of certain 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee models and 2002-2007 Liberty models may become punctured in a collision and potentially catch fire, so it has called upon Chrysler to recall the vehicles. 15 deaths and 46 injuries have been attributed to the issue. For its part, Chrysler has maintained that its models "met and exceeded" all safety applicable mandates when they were manufactured, and furthermore, they argue that the government agency's own data proves that the vehicles are no more dangerous than similar SUVs produced by other automakers at the time. As a result, it is taking the unusual step of refusing to recall the vehicles.
According to The Detroit News, Lutz says Chrysler is right to push back when the government is out of line. Lutz also said that he wished he could have done the same when NHTSA urged Chrysler to issue a recall on certain minivans back when he was with the automaker 25 years ago.
Meanwhile, United Auto Workers Vice President General Holiefield also defended Chrysler by saying, "Our legendary Jeeps are crafted with pride by our dedicated UAW American workforce who work tirelessly to ensure the utmost quality of each Jeep that is produced for customers."