Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a consumer watchdog group, is calling upon U.S. regulating authorities
to reopen an investigation into older Jeep SUVs made by Fiat Chrysler
Automobiles (FCA). Since a June 2013 recall, models with rear-mounted
fuel tanks have caused fires that have led to fatalities, most of which
have occurred in rear-impact crashes. In a crash, the plastic gas tanks
can rupture, spilling gasoline and bursting into flames.
At the time of the recall, per the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the fire death toll from the Jeep defect stood at 270. After the recall,
however, problems continued, albeit at a slower pace, and reports suggest
that 19 additional fire-related fatalities occurred.
Since this number of deaths exceeds the nine deaths in the U.S. from Takata
airbag inflators, the CAS and other critics have expressed concern and
outrage. "The most lethal vehicle safety defect in America today
is not the Takata airbag inflator," said Clarence Ditlow, executive
director of CAS. "It's the fuel tank behind the rear axle in
the 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 1993-01 Cherokee and 2002-07 Liberty."
(To learn more about the Takata recall, see
Toyota Recalling Another 1.6 Million Cars Over Takata Air Bag Debacle.)
Consumer Affairs, FCA initially refused the recall request but bargained a secret agreement
with ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who now operates as a lobbyist
for the industry. The deal involved putting a trailer hitch on the gas
tank of the recalled vehicles in hopes of preventing the fires. However,
a former FCA engineer said research never proved the effectiveness of
the proposed fix. Moreover, reports suggest that the company hasn't
been diligent in implementing the measure, as consumers have complained
dealers don't have the necessary parts.
"This is the recall that Chrysler never wanted to do and will never
do right. As far as Fiat-Chrysler is concerned Jeeps can continue to crash
and burn until they are all off the road,” Ditlow said in a letter
to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and National Highway Traffic
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