Chrysler Group’s plan to put trailer hitches on 1.56 million Jeeps has brought peace with federal regulators at a bargain-basement price, but it’s not likely to give occupants of those vehicles much more protection in rear-end crashes above 50 mph.
Chrysler says matter-of-factly that the bolted-on steel hitches will do little to protect occupants in the types of high-energy crashes regulators cited when they requested a recall this month of 2.7 million 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys.
Still, regulators say they’re OK with Chrysler’s plan. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told The Detroit News last week that he was “absolutely” satisfied with the modification. “It means that [owners] will be protected,” he told the newspaper.
In a statement to Automotive News, NHTSA said: “NHTSA believes the risk of post-crash fire and fuel leak incidents it evaluated would be mitigated by the remedy now offered by Chrysler. However, the energy involved in some crashes is so extreme, and the structural damage so severe, that any passenger vehicle involved in such a high-energy crash may experience a fuel leak or fire as a result.