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Auto blogSat, 15 Jun 2013 17:01:00 EST
Adding yet another chapter to the ongoing Jeep recall story, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) head David Strickland has gone on record to defend the government's request that Chrysler recall 2.7 million out-of-production Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty vehicles after the agency investigated fiery rear-end collisions that have reportedly killed at least 51 people over the years. In statements made to The Detroit News, Strickland said, "We felt very strongly that the process that we undertook and the findings that we made and ... we made the decision to issue a recall request. We do not take that very lightly." The top US auto safety regulator stopped short of telling owners to park their cars until the automaker takes action. "They can make their own risk assessment and their own choices," he said.
Chrysler does not intend to recall the models, insisting the "vehicles met and exceeded all applicable requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, including FMVSS 301, pertaining to fuel-system integrity" when they were manufactured and sold. "The company does not agree with NHTSA's conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation. The subject vehicles are safe and are not defective," Chrysler announced last week in a statement. "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."
Legally, Chrysler has until June 18 to formally respond to NHTSA's request. If the automaker does not take action, NHTSA is expected to issue a formal finding and seek a recall.
Chrysler is making the unusual move of delaying the first media drives of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which were slated to start next week in Seattle. And while something like this is a rare occurrence, and one that most of the Autoblog staff can't recall happening this publicly or so close to the event itself, it won't effect the actual on-sale date of the new Cherokee, which is set to hit showrooms in September.
"Over the last couple of weeks during final quality and durability testing, we have discovered the opportunity to further improve powertrain calibration," Chrysler told Automotive News. This marks the second notable delay in the Cherokee's short life, after production was delayed for roughly a month earlier this summer.
Still, we'd rather Chrysler make sure the Cherokee is ready for primetime before flying media in from around the country. It shows a willingness to get things right the first time, rather than offering media drives and then tweaking the car after the fact.
Earlier this month, a very significant Jeep was celebrated at the Toledo North Assembly plant. No, it wasn't the upcoming reincarnation of the Jeep Cherokee, but instead it was a 1943 Willys MB that visited the Toledo grounds where it had been built exactly 70 years ago to the day.
Of course, the actual building where the MBs rolled off the assembly line before heading to Europe for World War II no longer exists, but that didn't stop Italian owner Vittorio Argento from having the vehicle shipped to the US to make its trek back to its birth place. According to Chrysler, Argento's MB is still 95-percent original and it drove 1,000 miles from New Jersey to Toledo.
The whole adventure was chronicled on a blog aptly named A Jeep Comes Home. Scroll down for a brief video from Chrysler and for some photos of the Toledo visit and be sure to read more at Argento's blog.