Investigation into Jeep Fires Now Affects 5.1 Million Vehicles

Investigation into Jeep Fires Now Affects 5.1 Million Vehicles
Image: FCA Group

An existing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation into fires in older Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs has been upgraded to a full engineering analysis. It also now includes two additional Jeep models.

In addition to 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees, the investigation now includes 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models. Now affecting more than 5.1 million Jeep SUVs, the investigation is looking into suspect rear-mounted fuel tanks that pose a potential fire risk from rear collision impacts.

The original NHTSA investigation into the Jeep Grand Cherokee began in 2010 in response to a defect petition from the Center for Auto Safety. CAS requested the investigation after noticing a much higher rate of fatal fires in Jeep Grand Cherokees in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database than other comparable vehicles.

According to the NHTSA, the primary issue is the design of the Jeep vehicles in question, all of which feature a plastic fuel tank mounted behind the rear axle. Not only does this positioning leave the tank extremely vulnerable, but the filler neck has also been shown to detach during a crash and spill fuel.

Potential fires could not only quickly engulf the Jeep involved in the crash, but other vehicles that may be nearby as well.

In response to the investigation, Jeep maker Chrysler says that the Grand Cherokee is one of the safest SUVs on the road. It should also be noted that in 2005 the Grand Cherokee was redesigned, which included moving the fuel tank inside the frame.

As part of its investigation into the Jeep models at risk, the NHTSA will also be performing a comparative assessment on the Chevrolet Blazer, the Ford Explorer, and he Toyota 4Runner.