The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expanding its engineering analysis of Jeep Grand Cherokees and the risk of their gas tanks catching fire in rear-end collisions. An engineering analysis is an important step before NHTSA can make a decision to require a recall.
The problem with Chrysler Jeep SUV's, from the standpoint of safety advocates, is that the gas tank is hanging below the rear bumper, which has the potential to be a fire hazard in the event of a rear-end crash.
Executive director at the Center for Auto Safety Clarence Ditlow contends that it is "just a matter of time" before Chrysler, the company that manufactures Jeep vehicles, is forced to recall upwards of five million Jeep sport utility vehicles made between 1993 and 2007. "Just looking at the design, as a safety advocate, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize an unshielded tank, hanging below the rear bumper is unsafe," says Ditlow.
The data from preliminary evaluation of Jeep SUVs seems to support Ditlow's contention. NHSTA recently posted on their website, "rear-impact-related tank failures and vehicle fires are more prevalent in the Jeep Grand Cherokee than in the non-Jeep peer vehicles."
For their part, Chrysler believes that the NHTSA will decide that a recall on Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Libertys will be unnecessary. If Chrysler is wrong, they will face a massive recall. According to the Detroit Free Press, the car manufacturer assumed responsibility for safety recalls on their vehicles made before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. NHTSA has not commented on how long their investigation will take.