Every car that rolls off an assembly line is supposed to have met federal safety regulations and standards. Unfortunately, not all badly designed systems or defective components are identified in time, and car manufacturers end up recalling dangerous vehicle models on a regular basis, often at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Recently, the NHTSA asked the Chrysler Group to recall older models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee (1993 to 2004) and Jeep Liberty (2002 to 2007). These Jeeps were designed with the gas tank in a vulnerable position and the NHTSA claimed that this increased the risk for fire after a rear-end collision. Their recall request was based on 37 crash-related fires that caused 51 deaths.

At first, Chrysler refused — an unusual step, given the negative publicity the company would have faced if additional wrongful death lawsuits were brought following subsequent collisions. However, they finally announced that they were recalling 2.7 million Jeeps for inspection and a possible upgrade. Owners of these older model Jeeps can decide to get the inspection and any available modifications or upgrades that are offered, but they should be aware that a fire hazard may still be present, especially for children riding in the back seat.

Car manufacturers are liable for serious injuries and fatalities that result from a recognized defect in one of their motor vehicles. The number-crunchers at Chrysler seem to be calculating that any additional wrongful death or product liability lawsuits involving these Jeeps would be less expensive than providing a genuinely safe solution to the problem.