Update: Chrysler agrees to repair SUVs on fire risk

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Updated: June 18, 2013, 2:39 PM

 

DETROIT — Chrysler said it will fix 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty sport-utility vehicles that U.S. regulators linked to 51 deaths.

Chrysler, based in Auburn Hills, Mich. said Tuesday it reached an agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which earlier this month asked the automaker to recall 2.7 million SUVs that the regulator said can catch fire after rear collisions. Chrysler had said it wouldn’t recall the vehicles.

“Chrysler Group’s analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group,” the company said in the statement. “Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles.”

Chrysler’s decision averts what could have been the biggest U.S. showdown between an automaker and its safety regulator since the 1980s.

The company said it will do visual inspections of the vehicles and, if necessary, provide an “upgrade to the rear structure” to improve protection in low-speed crashes. It didn’t give details about the repair.

A recall of 2.7 million vehicles would be one of the 20 biggest in U.S. history, Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety based in Washington, has said. Ditlow pushed Chrysler, whose majority owner is Italy’s Fiat SpA, to recall the SUVs.