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Chrysler defies government, refuses to recall Jeeps

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This March 6, 2012, photo from the law offices of Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer, LLP, shows the scene of a crash in Bainbridge, Ga., where a 4-year-old boy died when a Jeep Grand Cherokee was struck from the rear by a Dodge Dakota pickup.

DETROIT — In one of the biggest-ever showdowns between an automaker and the government, Chrysler today was expected to file papers explaining its refusal to recall 2.7 million older Jeep SUVs that are at risk of catching fire in rear-end collisions.

The government says 51 people have suffered fiery deaths in Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys with gas tanks mounted behind the rear axles. But Chrysler is expected to stick to its contention that the SUVs are as safe as similar vehicles on the road. The Jeeps, it says, met all federal safety standards when they were built, some more than two decades ago.