Chrysler Hurries Up Jeep Recall after Pressure from Feds

Jul 17, 2014 03:53 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Chrysler has responded to pressure from federal regulators, announcing that its recalled Jeep SUVs will be repaired by March--a bit sooner than the five years recently predicted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The automaker's nine-page response comes two weeks after the NHTSA demanded an explanation from Chrysler as to why the recall was taking so long, Reuters reported.

Chrysler recalled around 1.56 million Jeep SUVs with rear fuel tanks in June 2013 due to an increased risk of following a rear collision, a fatal flaw that has been related to 51 deaths as of June 2013. The recall included 2002-'07 Jeep Liberty and 1993-'98 Grand Cherokee Jeep vehicles, which need to have trailer hitches installed to reduce the risk of fire.

In the special order two weeks ago from the NHTSA to Chrysler, the agency's chief counsel, O. Kevin Vincent, wrote, "For many owners, a recall remedy deferred by parts availability easily becomes a defect remedy denied."

The NHTSA formally requested that Chrysler recall the vehicles last year after reports of gasoline fires following rear-end crashes.

Chrysler will spend around $151 million to add the trailer hitches and has estimated that 87.5 percent of the Jeep Liberty SUVs and half of the Grand Cherokee SUVs will be brought into dealerships for repairs, the automaker told the NHTSA.

The carmaker, which is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has paid for additional robots to manufacture the needed trailer hitches, speeding up production.

According to Chrysler, suppliers have been working six days a week to produce the trailer hitches needed for the repair. At the time of the recall, the automaker said that trailer hitch assembly placed on the vehicles would shield occupants during a low- or medium-speed rear-end collision.

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