Editors note: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect model years of recalled Jeep Libertys.
So the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering its options on how to speed up the repair rate on a couple older recalls, including one involving hundreds of thousands of old Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys.
May I suggest leg traps? You know, those inhumane devices that capture an unsuspecting animal by an appendage and then keep them restrained until they either bleed out, starve to death or chew off their own limb to get free.
Or maybe excessive use of force would be a good response? After all, governments seem to have developed -- and now seem especially willing to exercise -- a specialty in that area that perhaps NHTSA could employ.
This is all going to get very interesting, because the offending parties here, at least in terms of the recall of 1993-98 Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys, are no longer Fiat Chrysler or its dealers, but consumers.
And consumers are known by another name to those who "toil in public service": voters.
Since the campaign began last summer, FCA has mailed, e-mailed and phoned owners of the recalled Jeeps 6.4 million times, offering a free inspection and, if not already equipped, a trailer hitch assembly to reinforce the vehicles’ rear-mounted fuel tanks.
So far, the automaker’s dealers have processed just under 426,000 of the SUVs. That’s out of an estimated 2.45 million manufactured, of which about 1.5 million are still on the road, according to registration data.
By my math, that means each owner of the recalled-but-not-yet-serviced vehicles should have received at least four and likely five or more notices of the action.
And it’s not like the parts aren’t available. Dealers that I’ve talked to say they have plenty of the trailer hitch assemblies in stock, waiting for consumers. FCA itself says it has 721,000 hitch assemblies available, including over 58,400 sitting on dealer shelves. Do that math for a second: FCA has fewer than 2,400 Jeep dealers in the U.S.; that’s two dozen hitch assemblies at each just waiting to be put on.
So if you’re a dealer, how exactly do you entice the owner of a 1993 Grand Cherokee that was probably bought when Bill Clinton was first running for president in an era when his wife is now launching her own campaign for the job?
How about tow truck bounty hunters? Maybe NHTSA would like dealers to just simply steal the remaining Jeeps, even with consumers/voters still inside, and haul them into their service bays against their will?
That could work, especially if the Jeeps could in some way be considered digital. Hell, the National Security Agency has become the world’s foremost expert at stealing digital stuff. Maybe they could be retrained to trade cell phone data for trailer hitch assemblies.
In all seriousness, until Congress and federal regulators are willing to punish consumers who don’t fix their recalled vehicles, all of their bluster and pontificating will remain just that.
To me, a choice between old Jeeps and old windbags isn’t even close.