Legal showdown between Chrysler and NHTSA regarding Jeep recall looms

Article by Anita Panait, on June 9, 2013

Chrysler’s refusal to heed to the request of the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall 2.7 million Jeeps that may contain glitches linked to 51 fire deaths may result to a legal showdown between the two entities. Chrysler and the NHTSA may take the road to a rare public hearing, and get the final say from the US Supreme Court, which top leader, Chief Justice John Roberts, was the carmaker’s lawyer 15 years ago when it stave off a recall effort.

Joan Claybrook, NHTSA’s administrator during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, told Bloomberg in an interview that if the agency wins, it is “going to show a new and improved agency,” noting that NHTSA has a long history of winning. On the other hand, Claybrook remarked that if Chrysler wins, it would “very damaging to the agency.”

She said that if the NHTSA is found to have overstepped its bounds or failed to conduct a thorough investigation, other carmakers “would be more likely to challenge recalls.” Although carmakers typically negotiate with NHTSA on the timing or scope of recalls, they seldom refuse to comply. NHTSA disclosed in January said it influenced recalls of around 9.4 million vehicles in 2012.

Recalls, whether influenced by NHTSA or not, in 2012 affected around 16.2 million vehicles, compared with 15.5 million in 2011. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, remarked that the NHTSA’s proposed Jeep recall would be one of the 20 biggest in US history.

Chrysler recently recalled around 630,000 sports utility vehicles due to defects in transmissions and airbag. However, the carmaker defended its refusal to heed the agency’s request, saying 2.7 million Jeeps made over 15 model years meet or surpass all US safety standards. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

Topics: chrysler, nhtsa, jeep, recall

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