Owners of Jeep vehicles take note: Government regulators announced this week that they are expanding an investigation into gas tank fires in Jeep Cherokees and Grand Cherokees involved in rear-end collisions. The announcement comes on the heels of news that Chrysler is expanding a recall on Jeep Liberty SUVs due to a rear suspension stability problem.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) first centered its fuel tank investigation on Jeep Grand Cherokees, model years 1993-2004. Today, the organization expanded its review to include 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles. About 5.1 million vehicles fall into these categories, though Chrysler says it cannot say how many of those are still in operation. All vehicles involved in the investigation feature fuel tanks that have been installed behind the rear axle that could make them more susceptible to fuel leakage and fires.
NHTSA reports that fires related to rear-impact crashes in Grand Cherokees may have caused at least 15 deaths and 46 injuries. If the agency’s investigation shows problems with the fuel tanks, a recall may be issued. A recall of 5.1 million vehicles would be one of the largest vehicle recalls in U.S. history.
Chrysler also announced this week that it was recalling an additional 347,000 Jeep Liberty SUVs because a rear lower control arm can rust and fracture. This defect could cause a decrease in rear stability which could cause the vehicle to skid or crash. In March, Chrysler recalled nearly 210,000 Liberty SUVs, model years 2004 and 2005 for the control arm problem. The car company expanded the recall to include model years 2006 and 2007. Jeep dealers will replace the control arms on all affected vehicles starting in July.