The Center for Auto Safety, citing recent crash tests, has renewed its demand for a government recall of 2.2 million Jeep Grand Cherokees from model years 1993 through 2004. The Center contends that a faulty fuel-tank design can cause the tank to rupture and burst into flames. In a recall petition to the National Highway Transportation Administration, the advocacy group said the vehicles have been involved in 64 deaths in 44 crashes where fire was “the most harmful factor.” The placement of the fuel tank behind the rear axle makes it more vulnerable to rupture in some kinds of crashes, the Center says. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the auto safety group, in an interview with ABC News, said:
You can have the tank itself rupture, you can have the filler hoses pull off as they did in some of our crash tests, and it’s just a terrible design. This is the most dangerous vehicle on the road today, and we want it recalled.
The petition cited the case of Susan Kline, a New Jersey mother who was driving a 1996 Grand Cherokee when it was rear-ended by a Toyota SUV. The Jeep’s doors jammed on impact, and Mrs. Kline was unable to escape the burning vehicle. Her husband, Tom Kline, told ABC: ”Imagine someone you’ve been with, that you’ve loved dearly for 33 years, being burned to death.”
The design is so bad that Chrysler frequently settles lawsuits with confidentiality agreements, the petition said. But Chrysler disputes the Center’s findings, saying that the vehicle meets the federal standard for fuel system safety, and that the group’s crash test was “three times as severe” as the government test. Chrysler insists that rear impacts resulting in fires are “extremely rare” and “occur no more often” in the older Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles than in similar vehicles.
Chrysler changed the Cherokee’s design in 2005, moving the fuel tank in front of the rear axle–but said it did so to expand cargo space, not to improve safety. Since the redesign, there has been only one fatal fire crash in the Grand Cherokee, and the fuel tank design did not play a role in the deaths, the petition said. NHTSA is investigating the vehicle’s safety.
Source: ABC News
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