FEDERAL INVESTIGATION INTO JEEP CHEROKEE FIRES
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating a fatality that occurred in Florida as part of a continuing investigation into a potential fire hazard caused by the design of the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel tank. This is according to a New York Times Wheels blog report. The fatality occurred on November 16th on Interstate 4 near Lake Mary, Florida, when a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer SUV traveling at 65 miles per hour slammed into the rear of a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which had apparently slowed for traffic in front of it. The collision also involved two other vehicles and caused a fire that fully-engulfed the Jeep, causing critical injuries to the driver and killing a 24-year-old passenger. The fire was so intense that a section of the roadway had to be resurfaced.
Initial inquiries into the Jeep Grand Cherokee started in 2009 when the Center for Auto Safety filed a petition with NHTSA alleging that the placement of the gas tank in the vehicle, between the bumper, and rear axle, made it susceptible to damage that could lead to a fire. According to the Detroit News, of the nearly 3,000 people that have been fatally injured over the years in collisions involving the Jeep Grand Cherokee, NHTSA says that 55 were the result of crashes where a fire was “the most harmful event”.
In 2005, the design of the Jeep Grand Cherokee was modified, moving the gas tank in front of the rear axle in order to accommodate the spare tire carrier, not as a result of a suspected design defect according to Chrysler Corporation.