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Chrysler Still Won't Recall Jeep Grand Cherokee, But Will Inspect All, "Upgrade" Some

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2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

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UPDATE: Chrysler and the NHTSA have just announced a resolution to the proposed Jeep Grand Cherokee recall. Per the release, Chrysler says it will inspect the involved vehicles, and will, "if necessary, provide an upgrade to the rear structure of the vehicle to better manage crash forces in low-speed impacts." The scope and cost of that action remain unclear as of yet. 

Last week, Jeep did something very, very unusual: when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked the automaker to recall 2.7 million vehicles due to a potentially dangerous design issue, Jeep said "No".

According to one market research firm, that refusal isn't playing too well in Peoria -- or anywhere else that Jeep customers live. 

GAS TANK TROUBLE

NHTSA claims that the 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Liberty are unsafe because their fuel tanks are located behind the rear axle -- a serious problem that has resulted in fuel leaks and fires in other vehicles like the Ford Pinto. The Grand Cherokee might be particularly at risk due to its ride height, which makes it easier for small cars and other vehicles to reach and rupture the tank during collisions.

According to NHSTA, the design flaw could be responsible for up to 44 deaths in the Grand Cherokee and another seven in the Liberty.

Jeep doesn't necessarily dispute the death claims, but insists that the reported fires aren't unusual. In a statement, Jeep said, "Our analysis shows the incidents, which are the focus of [NHTSA's] request, occur less than once for every million years of vehicle operation.... This rate is similar to comparable vehicles produced and sold during the time in question." 

And so, Jeep stood its ground. In fact, the company said quite clearly that "The company does not agree with NHTSA’s conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation".

The pushback was so rare that it became front-page news across the U.S. And as it turns out, consumers were paying attention.

PUBLIC PERCEPTION

YouGov is a marketing firm that interviews 5,000 people in the U.S. every weekday. Through those interviews, the company follows customer perception on a range of brands, assigning scores on its own "BrandIndex" scale that run from -100 (extremely negative) to 100 (extremely positive).

Jeep wasn't faring too well on the BrandIndex scale before the recall debacle -- at least not as well as other automakers. Still, its score of 10 bested that of its parent, Chrysler, which earned a 7.

As you'll see from this graph, things changed dramatically after Jeep publicly announced that it wouldn't recall the Grand Cherokee or the Liberty. As the story hit the headlines, consumers' opinion of Jeep plummeted from positive to negative territory, going from 10 to -6 on the BrandIndex chart. That's the lowest score Jeep has received since June of 2009. Chrysler took a lighter hit, falling to just around 1. 

How long will it be before Jeep recovers? It's hard to say in cases like these -- though the graph seems to indicate that things could get worse before they get better.

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Comments (9)
  1. Roast in hell the next time Chrysler comes with their hands out for more government money. Twice tricked, three times.......
     
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  2. I don't know who purchases these jeeps anyway. They are not the off-road capable machines that people think they are. Rather, they are not that great even on the average roadway. Also chrysler has been making substandard vehicles for years.
     
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  3. My brother owns a 2010 Grand Cherokee and loves it. What did he trade in to get it? His 175,000 mile old Grand Cherokee. Most Americans couldn't care less about going off road.
     
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  4. Love my 1993 Grand Cherokee and prior to it my Wagoneer! I am a realtor in the country and my jeep goes anywhere; mud, snow, rock hills and even cross-country road trips. Jeep, no ordinary experience!
     
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  5. This government wild goose chase is without merit. Of course if you are rear ended by a 18 wheeler doing 65 mph there is a good chance the gas tank would be ruptured no matter what vehicle you are riding in at the time. It is sad that out of millions of vehicles, occupied by hundreds of millions of people and driven billions of miles that given the percentages a few will be involved in horrific accidents that result in a fire and cause some deaths. Those are reasonable assumptions, reasonable statistics and acceptable risks. People will be hit by lightning walking down the street, or killed by a meteor from outer space or drown in their bathtub, but do we remain filthy in our bed and never risk those statistical possibilities? PC nonsense.
     
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  6. Bill, we understand how much you love Chrysler products. But c'mon: are you saying that the Ford Pinto was a design model for all to follow?
     
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  7. 51 deaths mean nothing?
    Spending your government money on lawyers instead of fixing your issues is why Chrysler has become the "bastard child" of the industry that no one wants anymore. Management still has their heads up their asses on priorities.
     
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  8. This issue has been resolved by most car makers since the days of the Pinto and other cars that had the fuel tank behind the rear axe - just ahead of the back bumper. Today most vehicles put the tank under the rear seat cushion (straddling the prop shaft in some cases). Rear-enders that involve significant underride or override will pop the tank like a grape or tore open the filler tube.
     
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  9. Hmmm, how about the several months we've been waiting to have the faulty airbag in our GC Overland replaced. Should we drive it or not. Would you risk going 65 on the tollways with the possibility of the bag going off in your face with only a second of warning light?

    I won't drive it more than a few miles to mail stuff. Is Chrysler concerned, not so much.
     
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