The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is extending a prior investigation of Jeep models to include certain older models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs.
The first Grand Cherokee probe began in August 2010, covering almost 3 million vehicles, and was taken up by the NHTSA in response to requests by the Center for Auto Safety, which questioned that the gas tanks lacked sufficient shielding.
Now, the probe covers an estimated 5.1 million vehicles.
The model years now under investigation are 1993 to 2004 Grand Cherokees, 1993-2001 Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Liberty SUVs. The SUVs' gas tanks are the focus of the NHTSA investigation because they can be easily damaged in a rear-end accident and leak, which can cause a fire.
Comparison to similar models finds Jeep fires occur more frequently
Crash data has revealed that deaths from rear-end accidents and fires are occurring more one the three affected Jeep models than on other comparable models. The NHTSA found that, over a period of time, 15 people had died in 26 Grand Cherokee fires.
The NHTSA stated that the Grand Cherokee was compared to the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Blazer and Toyota 4Runner. The NHTSA has adjusted the investigation to an engineering evaluation, to confirm whether the specified vehicles have a defect that offers an unwarranted risk to driver and passenger safety. At this stage, the NHTSA has not demanded a recall of these vehicles.
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