NHTSA closes probe into fire risks in older Jeep Grand Cherokee, Liberty vehicles

Article by Anita Panait, on January 20, 2014

The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed its probe into fire risks in 2.7 million older Jeep vehicles. The closure of the probe effectively ended a rare public standoff between US regulators and the carmaker over whether a safety recall is justified. 

In spring 2013, NHTSA asked Chrysler to recall 1992-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and the 2002-2007 Jeep Libertys, saying the vehicles have an increased risk of catching fire since their gasoline tanks were mounted behind the rear axle.

Chrysler, however, refused to recall the vehicles in June, reversed itself weeks later and agreed to install trailer hitches on some of the vehicles for additional crash protection. NHTSA said in a statement that it had "no reservations" about Chrysler's plans, despite the carmaker’s admission that a trailer hitch would not protect against the high-speed, high-impact crashes that usually result to fires.

"Throughout this process, the agency has been in close communication with Chrysler and has no reservations at this time with their announced actions to move forward,” NHTSA said, adding that consumers should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive final notification from Chrysler.  The regulator said that it will continue to monitor consumer outreach as the recall process continues.

NHTSA also said it will formally conclude its probe "in the coming weeks" by publishing a final analysis of the Jeep vehicles. Chrysler has insisted that the SUVs in question complied with all safety standards when they were sold, and that the decision to install the fuel tank behind the rear axle is not a defect that justifies a recall. "Chrysler Group commends the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the diligence demonstrated over the course of this investigation," the carmaker said in a statement.

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