After coming to terms in 2013 to address a recall of Chrysler vehicles that has been linked to 51 fatalities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator stated in a July 2, 2014 direct order that the automaker was moving too slowly in address the fuel tank issues of the more than 1.5 million automobiles that were called back.
The recall reportedly applied to 1.5 million Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles, with model years 2002 through 2007 and 1993 through 1998 respectively. The NHTSA's order to Chrysler also included an undisclosed amount of Chrysler automobiles that were added to the 1.5 million vehicle recall.
The NHTSA's letter ordered Chrysler to hand over information regarding the progress of the recall, including its data collection measures and strategy for bringing the recall to a close. Chrysler was also reminded it agreed to provide six reports each quarter during the recall regarding progress
The NHTSA and Chrysler agreed installing trailer hitches at the rear of the recalled vehicles would absorb the damage of a rear-end collision and prevent the rupture of precariously placed fuel tanks.
The NHTSA was hesitant at first to accept Chrysler's trailer hitch remedy for the fuel tank issues. The NHTSA got on board with the automaker mitigation plan after the safety association held a battery of tests, performing eight rear collision and reconstruction tests with the hitches between Aug. 22, 2013 and Jan. 2, 2014.
The NHTSA's July 2, 2014 letter reminded Chrysler the automaker was ordered to encourage owners of the recalled Jeeps to have the rear structures of the automobiles inspected. The automaker was to install Chrysler trailer hitches on vehicles lacking such components and inspect the installation of automobiles that already had one installed.
The NHTSA stated it was concerned Chrysler can't produce the necessary quantity of trailer hitch and hitch installations to complete the recall in a timely manner and the slow pace of the recall would enable Chrysler to mitigate the financial costs more than eliminate the danger presented.
"For many owners, a recall remedy deferred by parts availability easily becomes a defect remedy denied," stated the NHTSA.
Chrysler was given until July 16, 2014 to formally respond to the NHTSA's order and warned failure to respond could result in civil penalty ranging from $7,000 per day, up to a maximum fine of $35 million.