Noble McIntyre on June 17, 2011
The Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit safety advocacy group, has announced that millions of Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 1993 to the 2004 model years are likely to catch on fire when struck from behind and should be recalled. The center began investigating the jeep model and found that from 1992-2008, there were 172 fatal fire crashes which caused 254 deaths.
The Center contributes the fire risk to two main problems. The first is that the gas tank is located behind the rear axle and below the bumper, otherwise known as the crush zone. What this means is that the gas tank is in a vulnerable position and could easily be hit if anything goes under the bumper. The second problem is that a fuel filler pipe is in an area that can be ripped away in a rear impact, causing gasoline to leak from the tank.
Chrysler has refuted that the Jeep Grand Cherokees should be recalled, providing documents to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing that they were designed with “sound engineering judgment and care” and were “neither defective, nor do they pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety in rear-impact collisions.” Chrysler has also provided material including tests that show that Grand Cherokees exceeded the federal safety standard for not leaking fuel in a rear impact.
If the Jeeps are subject to recall under the federal regulations, Chrysler would not be liable to pay for the repairs. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official said that an automaker does not have to pay once a vehicle is 10 years old. However, Chrysler would have to notify the owner of the vehicle of the potential hazards. Still, it would be bad public policy to notify the owner and then decline to do anything about it.
Recognizing the potential for some drivers to take the vehicles off-roading, Chrysler since 1993 has offered purchasers of Jeep Grand Cherokees the option to use a skid plate that provides more protection to the gas tank. Also, in 1999, Chrysler installed a fuel tank brush guard in vehicles that did not have the skid plate. The fact that Chrysler offered these options for drivers who wanted to take the vehicles off-roads is indicative that Chrysler may have recognized that the gas tank design may not be the safest.
Then in 2005, Daimler-Chrysler redesigned the Jeep Cherokee and moved the tank to the middle of the vehicle. However, Chrysler said that the move was to make more room for storage space inside and not to make the design safer.
Currently, Chrysler is still adamant that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Models from 1993-2004 are safe.
“It is important to note that the data you are attempting to analyze reflects real world operation over a 10-year period in which more than two and a half million 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees were on the road and many, many millions of miles of safe operation were experienced by our customers,” said Chrysler in a statement. “The 1993-2004 Jeep Grand meets or exceeds federal safety standards and has an excellent safety record.