by David Kiley
Consumer activist Ralph Nader has called on Italian automaker Fiat to recall 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees made by Chrysler because of what he calls their vulnerability to catching fire in rear-end crashes.
Chrysler sold the bulk of its assets to Fiat in 2009.
U.S. safety regulators have been testing and considering a recall of 3 million vehicles, but so far the National Highway Highway Safety and Traffic Administration says the accidents associated with the vehicle do not warrant a recall. NHTSA has linked 22 fiery crashes and 14 deaths to the Grand Cherokee’s fuel tank, which it has said is not out of the statistical norm.
The Center for Auto Safety, says Nader, claims it has evidence of 44 fiery crashes and 64 deaths due to the Grand Cherokee’s fuel tank. Nader said today that the Grand Cherokee from these years “is a modern-day Pinto for soccer moms” because the fuel tank is behind the rear axle, below the rear bumper. As a result, Nader claims, the Grand Cherokee has a greater chance of bursting into flames during a rear-end crash.
“Now that Fiat has purchased Chrysler, it has the moral obligation to remedy the deadly fuel tank design in the Jeep Grand Cherokee before more innocent victims are burned today, not only in the United States, but also in Europe,” Nader said. Nader and the Center for Auto safety were instrumental in bringing to light the flawed design of the Ford Pinto in the mid 1970s. That car, too, had its gas tank mounted behind the rear axle, leaving it vulnerable to an explosion and fire when hit from behind.
Chrysler maintains the Grand Cherokee does not have a faulty fuel tank design and that the NHTSA’s “investigation should be closed.”
Starting with the 2005 Grand Cherokee, then-Chrysler owner DaimlerChrysler redesigned the vehicle to move the gas tank forward of the axles, where the current Grand Cherokee’s gas tank is located.