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Recall of exploding Jeep gas tanks viewed as inadequate

Last year saw a record number of vehicle recalls from automakers. As troubling at that statistic was, equally troubling were two of the recalls, which had been percolating for almost a decade and yet failed to prompt much of a response from either the carmakers or their regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA has promised to be more aggressive in its policing of the automotive industry, but another story of another recall seems to again display the overly cozy relationship between the Department of Transportation, NHTSA and the carmakers. A relationship that leaves ordinary motorist dying in unnecessary accidents caused by defective designs or parts used by the auto manufacturers.

This recall was for Chrysler Jeeps which could explode in a rear-end accident due to the placement of the gas tank on the vehicles. It involved vehicles manufactured as long ago as 1993, but it took 20 years before NHTSA asked Chrysler to recall the Jeeps. NHTSA noted the vehicles had a "defect" that created an "unreasonable risk" that occupants could "burn to death in rear impact crashes."

Rather than recall these potentially deadly Jeeps, Chrysler's CEO asked for, and received, a meeting with the Secretary of the DOT and the head of NHTSA, and they worked out a deal where Chrysler would install a tow hitch on the defective Jeeps.

Even one of Chrysler's engineers noted that the "tow package does not protect the tank." Nevertheless, Chrysler claims, "it provides incremental benefit in low to medium-speed impacts." So, you had better have an "incremental" crash if you own one of these Jeeps. Most important for Chrysler is that it was the "agreed-upon action," not that it was effective.

The government has found about 50 people have died in these accidents, but safety advocates, as with the GM ignition switch defect, claim the number is much greater. Last fall, NHTSA instructed Chrysler to accelerate the pace of the repairs.

On the day the letter was sent, another woman died in a fiery explosion of her Jeep. Her family's attorney claimed an autopsy showed she would have survived the crash if the Jeep had not burned. Sadly, even if the Jeep had been repaired, it not have helped given the inadequate nature of the fix.

Cbsnews.com, "Chrysler exploding gas tank "remedy" not enough for some," March 23, 2015

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