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.
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
● A Senate subcommittee that is investigating the General Motors ignition-switch recalls said it will hold a second hearing July 17. The Commerce Committee’s consumer protection and product safety subcommittee will probably summon GM chief executive Mary T. Barra for a return appearance. Former U.S. attorney Anton R. Valukas, who investigated the problem for GM, also will probably appear.
● Payroll processor ADP said private employers added 281,000 jobs last month, up from 179,000 in the previous month. The improvement in the ADP figures occurred mostly in professional and business services, a category that includes many higher-
paying jobs such as accountants and engineers, but also lower-paid temporary workers. That category gained 77,000 jobs. Goods producers hired 51,000 workers in May, up from 31,000 the previous month.
● Orders to U.S. factories fell in May, ending three months of gains. The Commerce Department reported that orders fell 0.5 percent, pulled down by falling demand for military and transportation equipment. That followed increases of 0.8 percent in April, 1.5 percent in March and 1.7 percent in February. Excluding military hardware, factory orders rose 0.2 percent in May from April.
● The Treasury Department said the government has received a total of $946 million in repayment from the Puerto Rican bank Popular as part of a federal bailout program. The Treasury said Popular was the largest bank that remained in the Capital Purchase Program under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Officials say the repayment means the government recovered $1.22 billion of principal and interest stemming from an original investment of $935 million in Popular.
— From news services
● 8:30 a.m.: June jobs report, weekly jobless claims, May international trade.
● 1 p.m.: Stock market closes for Fourth of July holiday.