WASHINGTON - Chrysler has rejected a US safety agency's request to recall as many as 2.7-million Jeep sport utility vehicles to fix an alleged risk of fires that have, the agency says, left dozens dead.The same vehicles, and other Chrysler products, were involved in a 2010 recall over brakes.The US automaker said it had received a letter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requesting it to recall Jeep Grand Cherokee units built from 1993-04 and the Jeep Liberty units from model years 2002-2007 but Chrysler has said it "doe not agree with NHTSA's conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation"."The subject vehicles are safe and are not defective," Chrysler retorted.Indeed, an investigation by Chrysler SA has revealed no such incidents in South Africa.REAR-IMPACT FIRES CITEDIn its letter to Chrysler dated June 3 the NHTSA said an investigation begun a year ago came to a "tentative" conclusion that the fuel tank being mounted behind the rear axle in both models was risky."This investigation revealed numerous fire-related deaths and injuries, fires that did not result in deaths and fuel leaks after rear impacts," the agency said, adding that fatal rear-impact fires killed 44 people in Cherokees and seven in Libertys.Chrysler insisted the agency's conclusions were "based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data".Sergio Marchionne, chairman and chief executive of Chrysler, said in the statement: "All of us remain committed to continue working with the NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of these vehicles."'NOT A FORMAL FINDING'A Chrysler spokesman told AFP "about 21" deaths occurred in rear impacts "where fire was the most harmful event". "Other numbers may include other-type accidents not related to this investigation."The NHTSA said its recall recommendation "does not constitute a formal finding or conclusion" that the vehicles were dangerous but the automaker is required to provide the agency with a full explanation of its decision.If the two sides still disagree the NHTSA can hold a public hearing and, if it concludes that a safety-related defect does exist, it can order a recall. The regulator said in a statement late on Tuesday (June 3) that it hoped Chrysler "will reconsider its position and take action to protect its customers and the driving public"."Our data shows that these vehicles may contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety, which is why we took the next step of writing to Chrysler. The driving public should know that the NHTSA is investigating this issue."PEOPLE IN LIMBOMichelle Krebs, an analyst at Edmunds.com, said: "Chrysler must feel it has a compelling reason to take such a bold stand. Since Toyota was publicly humiliated for dragging its feet on recalls just a few years ago, automakers have been quick to recall vehicles at the NHTSA's request."Krebs added that people with problems were in limbo and must wait for the process to run its course.Marchionne is also CEO of Fiat, which has majority control of Chrysler, the third-largest US automaker, since it emerged from a US government-backed bankruptcy re-organisation in 2009.Chrysler SA, asked for comment about the recall and its refusal, said: "We stick by what has been said in the release by our principals in the US. We are investigating but are not aware of any similar incidents related to this matter (in South Africa)."