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Safety Advocates Concerned About Jeep Recall

Earlier this year, Chrysler announced that it was initiating a recall of just over 1.5 million Jeep vehicles due to a flaw in the design of the vehicles’ fuel tanks. In the event of a car accident, the fuel tank could be punctured and leak, which could lead to a fire.

The recall, which affects 1993-1998 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 model year Jeep Libertys, has proven controversial with safety groups for several reasons. First, Chrysler refused to follow government recommendations about which vehicles should be subject to the recall. Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initially recommended that Chrysler recall an additional 1.2 million 1999-2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees due to the same fuel tank problem. Rather than recall these vehicles, Chrysler will reach out to individual owners to assess on a case by case basis whether a fix is needed.

Second, safety groups have taken issue with Chrysler’s proposed solution to the fuel tank safety issue. Each recalled vehicle – and other vehicles that are found to have the same problem – will receive a trailer hitch from Chrysler. The automaker believes that installing a hitch will solve the issue of possible puncture damage to the tank in the event of a crash. Experts point out, however, that in some of the vehicles, the fuel tank extends nearly eight inches below the rear bumper, which means that a trailer hitch would provide little to no protection to Jeep drivers who are rear ended. Organizations such as the Center for Auto Safety believe that the repaired vehicles would not pass a crash test at 50 miles per hour. The group has recommended that Chrysler install a metal shield around the tank, which would solve the safety issue.

Recently, the Center for Auto Safety asked the NHTSA to conduct crash tests on repaired vehicles to ensure that the hitch installation does, in fact, offer adequate protection to the fuel tanks in the recalled vehicles. The NHTSA should make a decision about the issue soon. For its part, Chrysler has not commented on whether it supports additional crash testing.

The Jeep recall is troubling not only because of the number of vehicles involved, but also because amount of time it has taken for Chrysler to announce the recall. Groups such as the Center for Auto Safety have been advocating for a solution to this particular fuel tank issue for nearly two years.

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