• Grand Cherokee and Liberty cited for fire risk by NHTSA
  • Feds say Chrysler should recall and fix vehicles
  • Chrysler disputes risk, refusing voluntary recall

Chrysler announced it will not institute a Jeep Liberty recall, nor will it recall certain older Jeep Grand Cherokees -- 2.7 million SUVs are impacted by this decision. The federal government says certain Jeeps pose an increased risk for fire. The automaker disputes the findings of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which conducts motor vehicle defect investigations and administers recalls. The NHTSA requested a recall of 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty models.

The increased risk for fire, according to the NHTSA, comes from the plastic fuel tank mounted between the rear axle and rear bumper on the Liberty and Grand Cherokee. The agency says that the tank presents a higher-than-normal risk for rupturing in a rear-end collision, which could cause a fire.

In an analysis of the Grand Cherokee versus peer vehicles such as the Chevrolet Blazer, Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer, the NHTSA says that rear-impact-related tank failures and vehicle fires occurred more prevalently in the Jeep.

For its part, Chrysler has been working with the NHTSA and contributing data to its investigation since 2010. But the automaker says it will not recall the vehicles because the findings of the agency are "based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data." It says both the Grand Cherokee and Liberty are safe and not defective.

To back up the claim, Chrysler says the incidents involving fiery rear-end collisions "occur less than one time for every million years of vehicle operation." It says both models met or exceeded safety regulations at the time they were built and were among the safest vehicles of their era.

Although Chrysler will not institute either a Jeep Liberty recall or a Grand Cherokee recall, Chrysler Group LLC chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne says the company will continue to cooperate with the NHTSA with the intention of demonstrating the safety of the SUVs.

"The safety of drivers and passengers has long been the first priority for Chrysler brands and that commitment remains steadfast," said Marchionne. "The company stands behind the quality of its vehicles. All of us remain committed to continue working with NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of these vehicles."

The NHTSA could take Chrysler to court in an attempt to force the recall. For now, these Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs will remain on the road and on dealers' lots, with owners and shoppers left to assess the risks on their own.

What it means to you: Two popular Jeep SUV models have been recommended for recall by the feds, but Chrysler is pushing back, saying they're safe.

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Brian Moody heads up the AutoTrader.com editorial team. An automotive writer and presenter for more than 12 years, he's contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Edmunds.com, Fox Business, Speed TV and The Today Show.

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