Chrysler has finally agreed to recall over 1.5 million older-model Jeep SUVs. The company had declined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) initial request due to their increased risks of fire occurring from rear-end collisions. Chrysler negotiated the recall and came to an agreement with NHTSA last week.

Chrysler will recall the 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models and 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee models. Models without a trailer hitch will receive a free hitch during the recall if the vehicle is able to support one. Jeeps with aftermarket hitches will be inspected and will receive a new one if harsh edges are observed, which can puncture the gas tank and ignite a fire during a rear-end crash. Jeeps with factory trailer hitches will be inspected and any issues will also be fixed free of charge.

Roughly 1.2 million Jeep Grand Cherokees produced between 1999-2004 have been removed from the original recall. The removed Jeeps are part of what Chrysler describes as a “customer service campaign.” Jeep owners with models from these years with factory hitches will only receive a notice and  aftermarket trailer hitches on these models will be inspected and replaced if need be.

However, owners of the 1999-2004 models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee are left wondering why their Jeeps were removed from the recall and are questioning the safety of the removed vehicles. Chrysler has defended the removal of the Jeeps, stating that the models are designed differently than the Jeeps agreed to be recalled.

“It’s a good thing for Chrysler to step up and agree to the recall, but consumers must be cautious.  A lot of potentially unsafe vehicles remain on the road.  Consumers are their own best advocates and should report any problems immediately so additional recalls can be evaluated if needed,” commented Rachael Gilmer, an attorney with the law firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A. in automotive and personal injury litigation.

In response to the recall agreement between Chrysler and the NHTSA, the Center for Auto Safety has called on regulators to review if the hitches help prevent rear-end collision fires in the recalled Jeeps. Clarence M. Ditlow, the executive director for the safety group, says there may be an opportunity for crash tests to be done to validate the effectiveness of the hitch on the affected Jeep models.

“They specifically did not tell us that they wouldn’t do a crash test,” Mr. Ditlow commented to the New York Times. “They want to make sure the remedy is rock solid.”


Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.