NHTSA starts probe on Chevy Cruze, Jeep Wrangler over engine fire complaints

Article by Anita Panait, on April 2, 2012

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has started two separate investigations into vehicles built by General Motors and Chrysler Group following reports of engine fires, which in many cases entirely covered the units with flames. The probe covers the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze compact car and 2010 Jeep Wrangler sport utility vehicle.

The state safety regulator launched the investigations after receiving two complaints about the 2011 Cruze and eight complaints about the 2010 Wrangler. According to the complaint, the engine of the two Cruze models caught fire while the vehicles were on the road, totally destroying the units.

According to the driver of one of the Cruze models, the Eco variant, the smoke started somewhere near the engine bay. Then flames started to appear, forcing the driver to stop the car and disembark. After five minutes, the car was totally engulfed in flames.

The driver noted in the complaint that the warning light on the dashboard illuminated only after the first sign of fire. With regards to the Wrangler, seven of the eight drivers who complained said the fires began while the engine was running.

One of the drivers meanwhile saw an unknown liquid burning to the ground coming from the engine area. The driver then attempted to extinguish the fire with water, but was without success. According to the complaint, the SUV was a “total loss” within minutes.

Both GM and Chrysler released statements saying they are cooperating with the government probe, adding that they were not aware of any injuries or fatalities in relation to the fire incident.

According to GM spokesman Alan Adler, the company is conducting its own investigation but will be sharing the results with the United States government. Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa, meanwhile, remarked that vehicle fires are very complex and could happen for reasons that have nothing to do with the unit, adding that fires could be the result of poor maintenance, improper vehicle use or installation of after-market equipment.

The Chevrolet Cruze's design is distinguished by its bold face, which includes a two-tier grille sporting the brand’s iconic Bowtie logo. This bold-faced design is the carmaker’s signature look the world over. Moreover, it has an arching roofline connecting a steeply raked windshield to the fast-sloping rear pillars in order to get a sporty and coupe-like proportion.

You can also see this sporty aesthetic in the Chevy Cruze’s prominent headlamp housings, which wrap around the corners then sweep upward in the vehicle’s fenders, as well as in its sculpted hood and its short rear deck, which you can typically see on sports coupes. Moreover, the Cruze’s wheels are pushed to the corners, with minimal rear and front overhangs. All of these elements cohesively work to give the Cruze an aggressive appearance that is complemented by its wide and confident stance.

Compared to most of its competitors, the Chevy Cruze is longer and wider, with a taut and tightly drawn bodywork that expresses solidity. Meanwhile, enhancing the car’s high-quality vibe is its restrained or minimal use of exterior trims. Overall, the Cruze’ appearance is that of purposeful precision.

This brand of precision is also clear in the quality of the Cruze’s build, thanks to the Chevrolet assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, whose body shop has been retooled with the latest welding and body-framing equipment in order to optimize the production of solid body structure. This strong body structure fosters minimal variance in production as well as repeatable gap tolerances of at most 3 millimeters between exterior panels. This creates a better-looking new vehicle that feels solid through the years.

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