Michigan Jeep Dealers May Not See a Recall, But Fire Fatalities in Grand Cherokee Seem to Warrant One

June 24th, 2011
Michigan Jeep dealers may soon see a recall if the Center for Auto Safety succeeds in having what seems to be a fire-prone vehicle recalled by the manufacturer.

Michigan Jeep dealers may have no announced recalls, but deaths, such as one due to a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee (pictured), increased since 1992. Photo by InnovationBazka.

DETROIT, M.I. – Michigan Jeep dealers should know about the serious fire problems that are arising due to rear impacts on 1993 to 2004 model Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles. More than 250 deaths have been reported due to these fires, and agencies like the Center for Auto Safety are working to have a recall carried out on the 2.2 million vehicles potentially affected.

Crash Tests Conducted

The Center for Auto Safety conducted three independent crash tests on 1995, 1996 and 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokees to test the vulnerability of the gas tank due to its location. The tests included:

  • Test 1 and 2: A Ford Taurus crashed into the rear of a Jeep Grand Cherokee at about 50 mph.
  • Test 3: A Ford Taurus crashed into the rear of a Jeep Grand Cherokee at about 40 mph.
  • For Comparison: a 1995 Ford Explorer was crashed into by a Ford Taurus at 70 mpg.

The results showed that in each test the Jeep Grand Cherokee had significant leaks of gas that posed a danger to the occupants of both vehicles if a collision were to occur while the Explorer maintained an intact fuel system.

Location Issue

The gas tank of the Grand Cherokees in question is placed behind the rear axle and slightly below the bumper. Safety engineers refer to this location as a “crush zone” according to The New York Times.

A former NHTSA official, Carl Nash, also said in a statement to The New York Times that the location of the gas tank “it is very vulnerable. If anything goes under that bumper, it could easily puncture the tank.”

Although the 2005 model year of the Jeep Grand Cherokee saw a new design with a different gas tank placement, a Chrysler spokesman, Michael Palese, said in an email to The New York Times that it was not due to the concern of fires, but because of a new spare tires location.

The other problem concerns the fuel filler pipe, which is positioned in such as way that it could potentially rip away in a rear impact, which would allow gas to escape the tank.

Fatality Data

Michigan Jeep dealers may not be aware of the data found by the Center for Auto Safety. The agency found 172 fatal fire crashes, which resulted in 254 deaths from 1992 to 2008 in Grand Cherokees.

In 1999, a driver in a Toyota MR2 struck the rear of a Grand Cherokee and died of the burns from the Cherokee while the two passengers in the Jeep sustained serious burns.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Crash with Toyota MR2, Driver in Toyota Killed from Fire

Jeep Grand Cherokee Crash with Toyota MR2, Driver in Toyota Killed from Fire

In 2006, a four-year-old managed to be pulled from her mother’s Jeep Grand Cherokee after a rear collision but had suffered burns and smoke inhalation and did not survive. The fire for this particular crash was investigated, and it concluded that the gas tank had been punctured by the Jeep’s trailer hitch.

Investigation Request

In 2009, the Center for Auto Safety sent a request to the National highway Traffics Safety Administration (NHTSA), requesting a recall investigation that would affect more than 2.2 million Jeep Grand Cherokee models that are still registered.

In Aug. 2010, the NHTSA granted the request and although tests were conducted by the NHTSA and NHTSA third parties, the preliminary review stated the Grand Cherokee did not indicate “to be over-represented for post-crash fires.”

The Center for Auto Safety disagreed and still continues to conduct tests, sending letters of its findings to the NHTSA.

It may take more investigation and tests from the Center for Auto Safety as the push for a recall continues. Michigan Jeep dealers and others across the country may not need worry about a recall on such a large scale, but it may be in the best interest of owners if Chrysler decides to conduct a recall that could ultimately save lives.

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[Source(s): The New York Times]

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