Fatal Fire Danger
The consumer group, Center for Auto Safety, says that Grand Cherokees, from 1994 to the 2004 model year, have a fatal fire danger and should be recalled.
The Center points to an analysis of fatal fire crashes, Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), which gathers police and medical accident reports. It found 172 fatal fire crashes and 254 deaths resulting after the 1992 Grand Cherokee was introduced up until 2008.
The majority of the fires occurred in the vehicles before the 2005 model year.
The problem appears to be a plastic fuel tank that is behind the rear axle and a short distance from the gas tank. In a crash it can be easily punctured, said Center director, Clarence Ditlow. The plastic fuel tank appears on the 1993 to 2004 models.
The Center for Auto Safety’s petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Center says that the 1993 through 2004 model years have “a fatal crash-fire occurrence rate that is about four times higher than S.U.V.’s made by other companies.”
“The design is so bad that Chrysler frequently settles lawsuits without extensive discovery and subject to confidentiality agreements,” the petition says.
A Chrysler spokesman tells the New York Times the Grand Cherokee meets or exceeds federal safety standards.
Mike Palese of Chrysler says in a statement: “While we design our vehicles to protect the greatest number of motorists in the greatest number of accidents, unfortunately accidents do occur, can be dangerous and, sadly, can sometimes cause injuries and even deaths. Statistically, rear impacts that result in serious injury are rare occurrences. Chrysler Group is confident that a proper study which considered all factors in all collisions, including rear collisions with fire, would show that the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees perform as well as or better than other vehicles in their class.”
Despite the ongoing problems, Chrysler asked a judge for immunity from any future product liability lawsuits when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization earlier this year.
The judge approved that request, but after intense lobbying to Congress by consumer groups, Chrysler announced it would accept legal responsibility for those vehicle accidents that occurred after it emerged from bankruptcy. Hundreds of injury cases that had been pending remain unsettled as the injured must try to collect any assets of the bankrupt company.
The Center for Justice & Democracy, a civil justice nonprofit group, has been chronicling the cases of the injured whose cases remain behind.
When the Grand Cherokee was redesigned in 2005, the petition says the fuel tank was put in front of the rear axle. #