NHTSA: Chrysler must explain slow pace of repairs


People visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens last month. Greek officials warned Wednesday of possible power cuts as electric utility workers prepare for protracted strikes against the government. (Petros Karadjias/AP)
July 2
AUTOMOTIVE
Chrysler is told to explain pace of fixes

Federal safety regulators are demanding an explanation for what they say is Chrysler’s slow pace in making fixes to protect rear fuel tanks in older-model Jeep SUVs, even though the regulators have accepted the automaker’s remedy in the case of lower-speed crashes.

At Chrysler’s current pace, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday that it would take nearly five years to fix all of the affected Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty SUVs involved in a recall announced last summer.

NHTSA has issued a “special order” signed by its chief counsel, O. Kevin Vincent, mandating that Chrysler produce documents to explain the pace of the automaker’s recall efforts. The documents must be presented to the NHTSA by July 16 or Chrysler will face up to a $35 million fine.

The affected vehicles are the Jeep Grand Cherokee for model years 1993 to 1998 and Jeep Liberty from 2002 to 2007.

In June 2013, Chrysler recalled 1.56 million Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs after initially resisting NHTSA’s request for the recalls. At the time, Chrysler said placement of a trailer hitch assembly would protect occupants in the event of low- or medium-speed rear-end crashes.

Chrysler said that its suppliers are working six days a week to make the trailer hitches and that customers will be notified when it is time to schedule service of their SUVs.

NHTSA has long maintained that the placement of the fuel tanks behind the rear axle has left them less protected in the event of rear-end crashes, and could cause fuel leaks and fires. At the time of last June’s recall, NHTSA had linked 51 deaths to the problem.

— Reuters

SPACE EXPLORATION
NASA, Boeing sign SLS rocket contract

NASA has reached a milestone in its development of the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is set to be the most powerful rocket ever and may one day take astronauts to Mars.

After completing a critical design review, Boeing has finalized a $2.8 billion contract with the space agency. The deal allows full production on the rocket to begin.

“Our teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the SLS — the largest ever — will be built safely, affordably and on time,” said Virginia Barnes, Boeing’s Space Launch System vice president and program manager.

The last time NASA completed a critical design review of a deep-space rocket that could transport humans was 1961, when the space agency assessed the mighty Saturn V, which ultimately took man to the moon.

The 321-foot SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, which can carry up to four astronauts beyond low Earth orbit on long-duration, deep-space destinations, including near-Earth asteroids, the moon and ultimately Mars.

— Los Angeles Times

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