On June 4, 2013, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requested a recall from Chrysler for roughly 2.7 million Jeep vehicles. The recall included 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models. The recall request occurred after the NHTSA reported that 51 individuals died in fire-related incidents caused by rear-end collisions in the affected Jeep models. After reviewing data, the NHTSA determined that these deaths were caused by defective gas tank design which increased the risk of fire.
Jeep Defective Fuel Tanks
The NHTSA concluded that the position of the fuel tanks in the selected Jeep models posed an unnecessary risk of fire and subsequent burn injury and death to drivers and passengers. In the event that the Jeep models are involved in a rear-end collision, the fuel tank placement may increase the risk of fuel tank puncture and subsequent gas leakage. As a result, a fire is significantly more likely to occur.
Jeep Recall Agreement
Initially, Chrysler denied the NHTSA’s recall request. The company stated that the NHTSA reached a conclusion that involved “an incomplete analysis of the underlying data.” However, two weeks later, Chrysler agreed to reach a recall agreement. In order to resolve the issue, Chrysler agreed to install a trailer hitch in roughly 1.6 million Jeep vehicles. The Jeep models to be recalled included 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee models and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models. Chrysler stated that the trailer hitch will protect gas tanks mounted on the vehicle’s rear axle in the event of rear impact.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Models
Excluded from the initial recall request were 1999-2004 Grand Cherokee models. Instead of a recall, Chrysler agreed to conduct a service campaign on these vehicles. Non-factory trailer hitches in these vehicles are to be inspected for sharp edges. If necessary, these trailer hitches will be replaced. However, no action will be taken for these vehicles that feature no hitch or a factory hitch.
Delayed Jeep Recall
As of October 2013, Chrysler did not yet initiate the recall, despite an agreement with the NHTSA to contact the owners of the affected Jeep models. The NHTSA has not disclosed whether or not it agrees to move forward with the trailer hitch installation agreement that was reached in June. This is due to claims that a trailer hitch is not intended to protect a fuel tank, and may therefore be an inadequate solution to the issue. The NHTSA has also failed to disclose whether or not it will conduct crash testing to ensure that installation of a trailer hitch will improve the safety of the affected Jeep models. This crash testing was initially requested by the Center for Auto Safety.
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