Chrysler is in a high-stakes poker game with the federal government. It is a game the government hasn't lost very often, so the odds favor the government.
Are there 2.7 million Jeeps that are dangerous and have a higher than usual incidence of fire in rear-end collisions? After several years of investigation, the government claims certain Jeeps should be recalled.
Chrysler says the vehicles are safe and met all existing standards at the time they were manufactured.
It will be critical to see whether the Jeep brand and reputation are eroded and, more important, what happens to the used-car values of those models.
It's an expensive, dangerous game, and the stakes for Jeep are high.
It's likely that Chrysler doesn't have a fix for a problem the company contends doesn't exist. That makes the cost of potential remedies even higher for Chrysler. Sometimes the only course of action is to get the vehicles off the street, an impossible solution for Chrysler.
A more difficult question: Is a company required to adhere to current standards for vehicles built in the past? When do you release a company from liability if a vehicle may be judged dangerous by today's standards when it's 10 or 20 years old?
My guess is that plenty of vehicles on the road don't meet today's safety standards. But is there a statute of limitations on liability?
Chances are that this is heading for court. The results are so far-reaching that the eventual outcome is anybody's guess. It is certain to be appealed, regardless of the verdict.
But meanwhile, this valuable brand that has been the lifeblood of Chrysler is very much at risk.
The auction market will give us the first indication about readjusting the value of those Jeeps.
Any impact on new-vehicle sales would come later.
Plenty of folks on both sides of this issue will be loaded for bear when the matter heads for court.
It probably should have been adjudicated some time ago.
But it's still a gamble for Chrysler and the Jeep brand.