Car manufacturers must meet federal safety standards at every stage of production. Even after a motor vehicle model is on the road, there are agencies monitoring performance and responding to accident reports and complaints. When there is convincing evidence of a widespread problem, one of these agencies may request a recall. Needless to say, a mass recall is always bad news for the car company — and its shareholders — but not as bad as the bad public relations that would follow if the defect caused a string of serious or fatal car accidents.
However, executives at Chrysler Group took the unusual step of refusing a request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that they voluntarily recall nearly three million vehicles due to safety concerns. NHTSA found a design defect in the following models:
In these models, the fuel tank is positioned behind the rear axle, which increases the risk of a fuel leak and fire following a rear-end collision. The NHTSA found that 37 rear-end crashes had resulted in 49 fatalities. In subsequent designs for both models, the fuel tank was moved.
The NHTSA may ask for a court order to compel Chrysler to make the recall. This impasse puts anyone who owns one of these vehicles in a difficult position. Some safety experts advise that you do not drive with anyone in the back seat, especially children in car seats.
Fortunately, when “the system” woks best—be it a regulatory agency or the courts—oversight and accountability occurs. What follows then is enhanced safety.
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