A number of fires in the Jeep Grand Cherokee have led a non-profit consumer advocate groups to demand a recall of the popular SUV. The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has made its appeal to Chrysler Group and its parent company Fiat. At issue are 5 million Grand Cherokees produced between 1993 and 2004.
The move has been prompted by the tragic deaths of three children. Cassidy Jarmon, Cole Hazleton, and Remington Walden were all killed when the Grand Cherokee in which they were riding caught fire after having been struck from behind. In a letter to the Chairman of Fiat, John Elkann, the group said that children were “dying in Jeeps in rear-impact fires.” They identified two faults which they claim makes the Grand Cherokee prone to this sort of accident. The first is a gas tank that is situated behind the rear axle and below the bumper in an area that engineers refer to as a crush zone. The tank was repositioned when the model was restyled in 2005, but the company maintains that this was not due to the fires. The second is a fuel filler pipe that is often ripped from the tank during an accident. This can allow gasoline to escape and cause a fire.
The CAS has been pointing out these fire risks since 2009, but Chrysler has always maintained that the SUV was not prone to fires and pointed out that the Grand Cherokee met all federal safety standards. Answering the latest charges, the company said that the vehicles were not defective and did not pose an “unreasonable” risk to safety when involved in a rear impact. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTS), was already investigating Grand Cherokee fires and has now upgraded their investigation to an engineering analysis.
The NHTSA investigation contradicts Chrysler by stating that fires were “more prevalent” in the Jeep Grand Cherokee in this type of accident than they were in similar vehicles. They then expanded their investigation to include 2002-07 Jeep Liberty models and released crash test results to back up their conclusions.
The CAS cites 157 fire deaths in Grand Cherokees, 15 of which were the result of rear-end impacts where the fires can spread very quickly. Cassidy Jarmon survived the initial impact but died two days later of burns and smoke inhalation because the fire had already spread before the four-year old could be removed from her child restraints.
Additional Reading and Resources: