In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating post-collision fuel-fed fire claims related to the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Liberty. NHTSA had discovered that the plastic fuel tank for certain Jeep Grand Cherokees (1993-2004) and the Jeep Liberty (2002-2007) had been placed between the rear axle and the rear bumper. The design of the vehicles placed the plastic fuel tank approximately 11 inches from the rear bumper. This placed the plastic fuel tanks within the recognized two-foot crush zone for the rear of the vehicle.
Most manufacturers place fuel tanks in front of the rear axle instead of behind it to ensure that fuel tanks are in an area not likely to receive crush during a collision. The fuel tanks for the Jeep vehicles also extend below the rear bumper, also increasing the likelihood that the tanks could be punctured in a rear collision.
Preliminarily, NHTSA sought a mandatory recall of 2.7 million of these defective vehicles. However, Chrysler, the company that owns the Jeep brand, fought NHTSA’s efforts for nearly three years.
In 2013, the manufacturer agreed to voluntarily recall 1.5 million of these defective vehicles. The agreement required Jeep to add a tow package to the rear of the vehicle to “add safety” to the vehicle. Jeep alleges that this fix will provide added safety in low-to-moderate speed rear impacts. Unfortunately, approximately 75 deaths associated with the vehicle have been reported to have occurred prior to this agreement.
Notwithstanding this agreement, NHTSA in November 2014 ordered Jeep to provide the agreed-upon fix at a faster rate. Although the initial recall occurred in June 2013, only three percent of the vehicles had been repaired by November 2014. Additionally, it had been reported to NHTSA that Chrysler/Jeep dealers had been sending customers away without the repair, telling them that their defective vehicles are safe without the repair.
It should be noted that Chrysler has known about this vehicle defect for years. In fact, Chrysler fought NHTSA over recalling these vehicles while consumers continued to die as a result of the unreasonably dangerous placement of the plastic fuel tank between the rear axle and the rear bumper. The “agreed” fix between NHTSA and Fiat Chrysler is not sufficient to provide adequate protection to consumers. Interestingly, prior to the recall, a Chrysler engineer testified in deposition that “the tow package does not protect the tank.”
If you need more information on this subject, contact Ellen Turnage, an attorney in our firm’s Lemon Law/Auto Fraud Departments, at 619-233-7770 or click “Free Evaluation” at the bottom left corner of this page.
Sources: Automotive News and CBS News