The position of the plastic fuel tanks in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees makes them potential fireballs, argues the Center for Auto Safety. The nonprofit organization says that the fuel tank's location makes the pre-2005 Grand Cherokees prone to catching on fire when involved in an accident. Located behind the rear axle and hanging down below the bumper, shorter vehicles can impact the tank directly, says the Center. The fuel filler neck has also sheared off during some of these incidents, leading to fuel spills and the increased potential for fires.
The Center is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open an investigation and recall some three million vehicles. Chrysler says the Grand Cherokee will come out of the study having met or exceeded any applicable standards. The organization also notes that NHTSA's files reveal 1993-2004 Jeeps involved in 172 crashes with fires and 254 deaths, while just one post-'05 Cherokee has had a fatal fire incident. The defect petition got underway with NHTSA on November 6, and could take a while, though this isn't the first time the agency has looked at problems with these Jeeps.
NHTSA's "defect petition" process began earlier this month, but a resolution isn't immediately forthcoming – such investigations can take many months – possibly years.