The Center for Auto Safety is asking Chrysler to recall five million Jeep Grand Cherokees made from 1993 to 2004 for potential fire hazards from their gas tanks. According to a report in The New York Times, the group is asking top officials at Chrysler and its parent company, Fiat, to recall the vehicles because of defective gas tank design that is causing fatal fires. The consumer advocacy group says children are dying in Jeeps in rear-impact fires.
Children Killed in Jeep Crashes
The group’s letter cited the deaths of three children since 2006 in fires that occurred when the Jeeps in which they were traveling were rear-ended. The Center for Auto Safety has also been urging since 2009 a recall of 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees for two major safety issues. First, the gas tanks in these vehicles are located behind the rear axle and below in the bumper in an area, which is referred to by safety engineers, as the “crush zone.”
Gas Tank Issues
When Chrysler redesigned these vehicles, it placed the gas tank in front of the rear axle. The second issue related to a fuel filler pipe positioned in a manner that it can rip away from the tank during a rear impact. This could allow gasoline to escape from the tank and pose a serious fire hazard. The automaker has responded with a statement that their vehicles are not dangerous or defective. However, nearly a year ago, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said its investigation of the center’s allegations were reason enough for the agency to upgrade its probe to an engineering analysis.
NHTSA said that the rear impact tank failures and vehicle fires seemed to be more prevalent in the Jeep Grand Cherokee than in similar non-Jeep vehicles. At that time the safety agency said it was expanding the investigation to include 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokees, as well as 2002-7 Jeep Liberty vehicles. NHTSA’s studies basically showed that other vehicles similar to the Jeeps did better from a safety point of view in rear-impact collisions. The center reports 157 deaths in which Grand Cherokee crashes resulted in a fire. NHTSA’s investigation is still ongoing.
Auto Product Liability
It is about time that these dangerously designed vehicles are removed from the market. Too many young lives have been lost as a result of these defective vehicles. I hope NHTSA makes a determination based on their engineering analysis and “convinces” the automaker to issue a recall. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of these Jeep defects, please contact an experienced auto product defect lawyer who will help hold the automaker accountable for your damages and losses. In such cases, it is crucial to preserve the vehicle in its current condition, unaltered, so that an expert can thoroughly examine it for potential manufacturing and design defects.