Feds upgrade Jeep fuel tank fire investigation, over 5 million SUVs now included
The initial investigation into the Jeep Grand Cherokee for their likelihood to catch fire in the event of a rear end collision was originally opened in October of 2010 but today the investigation has moved into the engineering analysis stage, which is often the final move before ordering a safety recall. Also, the NHTSA added the smaller Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Liberty as they have similar fuel tank designs and locations. This investigation was launched after 25 reports were received of Jeep Grand Cherokees bursting into flames when being impacted hard from the rear with reports of 15 deaths and 46 injuries. This investigation now includes the 1993 to 2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee along with the newly added 1993 to 2001 model year Jeep Cherokee and the 2002 to 2007 model year Jeep Liberty – with roughly 5.1 million vehicles possibly affected by the investigation and possible recall.
In these 5.1+ million Jeep sport utility vehicles, the fuel tank is located behind the rear axle in a position which some believe may increase the chances of the fuel tank being breeched in the event of a hard rear end impact. Once the fuel tank is punctured, fuel may leak onto the hot exhaust and that could lead to one incredible fire. Chrysler is quick to insist that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee and Liberty models from the aforementioned model years are no more likely to catch fire than other vehicles from similar sport utility vehicle segments. Unfortunately for the folks under the Pentastar, the NHTSA has found otherwise. According to Bloomberg, the NHTSA found differently in the case of the Grand Cherokee during their initial investigation – indicating that the likes of the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Blazer and Toyota 4Runner were less likely to catch fire after a hard rear end collision.
Chrysler revised their fuel tank layout in the 2005 model year for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, moving the tank from behind the rear wheels to a more protected location in front of the rear axle. The Jeep Cherokee was discontinued after the 2001 model year while the Jeep Liberty was redesigned after the 2007 model year.
Should the NHTSA find that there is a defect in design or engineering with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Cherokee and Liberty; the federal government could order the Chrysler Group to issue a recall of more than 5.1 million vehicles. Considering that some of these vehicles are twenty years old and the “newest” vehicles being investigated is going on 6 years old, there is a good chance that a portion of the affected Jeeps are no longer in service but with a recall covering over 5 million vehicles – this could be one of the biggest recalls in the history of the American auto industry.