By on June 5, 2013

In a letter sent (“VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS AND ELECTRONIC MAIL”) to Chrysler on Monday, the NHTSA requests that “Chrysler initiate a safety recall on MY 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and MY 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles and implement a remedy action that improves their performance in rear-impacts and crashes.” The NHTSA illustrated its request with pictures of burned-out Jeeps, some of which are in this article.

Yesterday, Chrysler sent out a press release, stating that it “does not agree with NHTSA’s conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation.” It is very rare that an automaker flat out denies such a request, especially one that documents scores of deaths. This is not an article about whether Chrysler is right or wrong. This is a story about curious double standards at the NHTSA. 

nhtsa2

In 2009, the Center for Auto Safety requested that the NHTSA look into all 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a fuel tank behind the real axle.” Three and a half years later, the NHTSA came to the conclusion, that “there have been at least 32 fatal rear impact fire crashes involving Grand Cherokees resulting in 44 deaths,” along with at least 5 fatal rear impact crashes that have resulted in 7 deaths.” The NHTSA says that after the Pinto and Bobcat disasters of the 70s (which had about half the deaths of the Jeeps) automakers learned and put the gas tank “in less vulnerable locations than behind the rear axle.”

That insight was lost on Chrysler.  The WJ Grand Cherokee, built from 1999 through MY 2004, “was configured with a fuel tank located behind the rear axle,” says the NHTSA. What’s more, “the MY 2002 through 2007 Liberty has a fuel tank located aft of the rear axle and less than a foot forward of the aft face of the rear bumper.” All that “contravened industry trends,” the NHTSA opines.

Chrysler says the NHTSA is wrong, and that the agency’s “initial conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data.”

The NHTSA countered with a milquetoast statement. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said that “NHTSA hopes that Chrysler will reconsider its position and take action to protect its customers and the driving public.”

Why Chrysler is digging in its heels is anybody’s guess. Relocating the fuel tank of 2.7 million SUVs is out of the question. However, the Center for Auto Safety estimates it would cost “Chrysler no more than $300 million to install a 3 millimeter steel skid, a fuel tank check valve and better fuel filler hose,” says CNN. Nothing doing, says Chrysler.

Comments Michelle Krebs of Edmunds:

“Chrysler must feel like it has a compelling reason to take such a bold stand. Since Toyota was publicly humiliated for dragging its feet on recalls just a few years ago, automakers have been quick to recall vehicles at NHTSA’s request.”

Speaking of Toyota, during the unintended acceleration frenzy, the government was more robust in its actions. At the same time the NHTSA looked into burning Jeeps in silence, the anti-Toyota campaign went full blast. Transportation Secretary LaHood asked people to stop driving Toyotas, the company was grilled on the Hill, and sentenced three times to pay the maximum fine. The company eventually was absolved. It was driver error. However, a stunned Toyota recalled everything it possibly could recall, and probably some more.

Some pigs definitely are more equal.

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105 Comments on “The NHTSA And Chrysler. Or: Some Pigs Are More Equal...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    Don’t they realize they’re dealing with the Italians now? This isn’t Lee Iacocca or Dr. Z. This is Sergio. And he’s implicitly explaining the Vaffanculo way of life to NHTSA.

    Honestly, I think it’ll come back to bite them — but it still irritates me how the NHTSA can try to use to PR to strong-arm companies into recalling cars. Do we even know how many of those rear collisions resulted in death NOT from fire? These sound like pretty major collisions, not simple fender benders where everything would have been ok if not for a poorly-placed fuel tank.

    Besides, all real Jeep drivers have fuel cells in the passenger compartment, well inside the cage. Or LPG conversions. Right?

    • 0 avatar
      ToxicSludge

      “Besides, all real Jeep drivers have fuel cells in the passenger compartment, well inside the cage. Or LPG conversions. Right”?

      Are you serious?I’ve owned 3 jeeps,all bought brand new,live in the mountains so off roading was a everyday occurrence should I want to go out and play.Having said that where did you come up with such an idiotic notion? A fuel cell in the passenger compartment? LPG conversions: never seen one for off roading before,but maybe.

      As for the fix,chrysler/jeep/fiat had better get this done for the 2000/2007 models because those are not the only ones having that problem.The 07 to 10 wrangler jk’s have a tsb out for new filler necks and check valves.When filling up the check valve closes and you get soaked in gasoline.My last new jeep was an 08 Wrangler JK and after just a year and a half I had enough with recalls and a myriad of electrical and mechanical problems and finally got rid of it.

      Jeep has a real ‘lack of quality’ problem going on that most don’t know about.After 3 new ones,in which two of those would have been covered in this recall/no recall situation I am done with all chrysler/fiat products.

      • 0 avatar
        ash78

        Relax, it was a joke. Boxy fuel cells (including LPG tanks) are for the very serious rock crawlers, mostly. I was poking fun at how Jeep is mostly for on-roaders in reality.

        I’m a VW driver, so I can appreciate “perceived lack of quality” and serious lack of recalls, even where they seem warranted. You might get a TSB. Or “if it breaks, we’ll fix it” (at best)

      • 0 avatar
        Cirruslydakota

        Fiat wasnt owner of Chrysler in 2008. Do some research and youll see that after the DBAG (Diamler Benz AG) takeover in 1998 quality control got flushed down the drain. Mercedes sucked all the R&D out of the company and left it to rot when what was left of the company got picked up by Sergio. Know what American automaker was the most profitable and healthy in 1997? It wasnt Ford.

        Fun fact, the guys that sold out Chrysler to the Germans then went to go work for GM and that company went down 10 years later. Look it up, after all this is supposed to be the “The truth about cars”.

        • 0 avatar
          ToxicSludge

          Jeeps quality went downhill long before DB stepped in.Here is a good link to see about just the refueling problem: http://www.safetyresearch.net/2011/03/23/fuel-spit-back-continues-to-plague-chrysler-vehicles/

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            Apparently their supplier Inergy still has no idea how to make a check valve. I had the spitback on my ’08 Liberty. To their credit, they fixed it for free after I called Jeep to complain ($900 job!), and have since notified me that the system has been given lifetime coverage.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Actually, the main guy who sold out a very profitable Chrysler to Daimler was Bob Eaton, a former GM man responsible for the paper gaskets that marred the first Neons. Only in retrospect did Lee Iacocca admit he should have put Bob Lutz in charge, even though they didn’t get along.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          Why does Cerberus always get a free pass? Bob Nardelli, Steve Feinberg and the other narcissists did far less for Chrysler than Daimler who wasted $37billion on their purchase to no avail.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            What can we say they really did besides get the ball rolling on a few product improvements, then slip under the water on the sinking ship?

            They were at the helm for what, 2 weeks?

        • 0 avatar
          Oelmotor

          I recall Toyota monitored Chrysler`s progress and later silently thanked DBAG for their efforts.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    If you aren’t getting enough clicks today, this should take care of it. Being trapped in a burning vehicle has to be a most horrible way to die.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Somebody high up at Chrysler must have written a check to a non-profit on the Enemies List.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    A couple of things probably come into play here:

    1) Chrysler probably took the Toyota recalls as an example of NHTSA over-reach.
    2) Chrysler has fought a recall before. The last time was in the late ’90s, and it won. As I recall, some guy named John Roberts argued their case.

    BTW, I only see one pic here where a car was definitely rear-ended and caught fire. Maybe that also played into Chrysler’s thinking.

    • 0 avatar
      Windy

      I too noticed that many of the included photos showed not much sign of rear impact. I wonder how many of these fires were the result of other causes even if the car was hit in the butt.

      I have only had one car fire and it was back in 1969 in a blazer the car was sn#75 part of the preproduction run when the line was being set up and the fire was in the fiberglass shell that made up the roof. (The first gen of blazers were shortened pickup trucks with out the bulkhead between the cab area and the back and they had major cracking problems with the Fiberglas top in the first year) the dome light shorted and ignited some uncured resin in the roof which set the roof off… All this in the parking lot of a Howard Johnson motel late at night by the time it was seen and the FD called it was too late to save the thing…. Now Chevy said that it was not a fault that was their responsibility and my insurance had to pay even though the local fire marshal had found the cause to his satisfaction….

      The reason for relating all that is that the true cause of a car fire can be hard to isolate… Add in the damage from a collision and I wonder if in fact the between the axel and bumper location is the full answer of all these fires. After all for decades that was where the tank on almost all front engined cars would be located. Had jeep made the change to plastic tanks by this time frame?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/cs/jaxrs/download/doc/UCM439144/INRM-EA12005-2111.pdf

        This is the link to the study. There are captions explaining the causes of the fires for the vehicles listed. For example, the burned Liberty in the junk yard was struck by a Plymouth Neon, which was low enough to reach the gas tank without doing much body damage to the Jeep. The occupants of the Liberty were able to escape. The Jeep Grand Cherokee burning in a ditch on the side of the road was struck by a Dodge Dakota. A five year old in the back seat was killed. There are other photos in the study.

        The unit of measure for incident rates was Millions of Registered Vehicle Years. I don’t think I’ve seen MRVYs used before. The Jeeps performed very poorly relative to the chosen peer vehicles used in the study with the exception of the Suzuki Sidekick. The Jeeps’ fatality rates were roughly double the average for rear impact related fire fatalities. How high is double? In the case of the JGC, it is 1 per MRVY. Anyway, the study is worth a look if you’re interested in the topic.

        While the losses of life in relatively minor accidents are very sad, I think the NHTSA needs to look at the overall fatality rates for the Jeeps relative to their competitors. In 2007, the average for mid-sized 4×4 SUVs involved in multi-vehicle crashes was 20 fatalities per MRVY. The overall average including other accidents was 59. We’re talking about a 300 million dollar recall and resulting ambulance-chaser feeding frenzy over a fraction of a point in performance out of an average of 20 to 59 points, depending on how specifically you want to define the crash type.

        http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4204.pdf

        I don’t know the Jeeps’ overall rates. They weren’t the best, and they weren’t the worst. That they didn’t make any of the lists for high overall fatality rates either in general or by category should have been considered by the NHTSA. Most design decisions involve compromises. There are tests that must be passed and there are statistics to reveal how vehicles perform in the real world. Does it make sense to have people worry about accidents that are statistically less likely to harm them than many others? The NHTSA can go after anyone for anything.

    • 0 avatar
      mklrivpwner

      One of the big points being argued is how the deaths and risk were measured. Per Sergio, the fatalities are on par or lower than the majority of models on the road. < 51 deaths over 2 decades.
      NHTSA says 51. period.
      Chrysler says "That's not fair, People who own Jeeps drive them more and farther. 51 deaths over xyz millions miles driven. That's 1 death per m milion miles, which is the same as the figures for brand ABC model 123".

  • avatar
    Junebug

    It wasn’t just the Pinto, there was an issue with the early Mustangs too. I saw a poor girl scarred for life on TV, she and her prom date were rear ended and the car burst into flames. I don’t remember if he died or what, but Ford eventually settled with the family. If Jeep won’t correct this issue, then we, the customers should all let them rot on the lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Cirruslydakota

      So should we recall all vehicles prior to the early 90′s for not having airbags even though they passed all safety standards at that time? The ZJ,WJ, and KJ all exceeded and passed the safety standards for rear end collisions at the time and yet since they dont meet 2008+ standards they’re now dangerous? If this is such a huge problem then why arent XJ Cherokees being recalled from 1984-2001? They had their tanks in the same exact location, same with ALL Wranglers. What about Ford Broncos or Chevrolet Blazers? They had the same location usually without skid plates.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        It’s analogous to building codes. My house was built in 1955 with asbestos, lead paint and insufficient insulation… according to 2013 codes. But nobody’s tearing down and rebuilding all old houses.

        “Functionally deficient” bridges are the same thing. The Washington bridge was functionally deficient, lacking shoulders, etc. In that case, however, the mere mention of “deficient” was enough to keep fueling the national panic over crumbling infrastructure.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          :“Functionally deficient” bridges are the same thing. The Washington bridge was functionally deficient, lacking shoulders, etc. In that case, however, the mere mention of “deficient” was enough to keep fueling the national panic over crumbling infrastructure.:

          Many bridges are *structurally* deficient or close to that because we have been neglecting our infrastructure. People in the know have been talking about our crumbling infrastructure for several years now and have been talking about the lack of funding for infrastructure (which will eventually put our economy behind).

          You can take a look at FHWA’s numbers, which are quite high:

          http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/deficient.cfm

          Note that FHWA makes a distinction between structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. Structurally deficient includes 11% of bridges — if that shouldn’t alarm us, then you and I have different standards for that.

          In addition, the trips made over these structurally deficient bridges are disproportionately in metro areas — the stat is that 102 metro areas cover 75% of trips over structurally deficient bridges:

          http://www.asfe.org/index.cfm?cdid=12783&pid=10344

          Functionally obsolete bridges make up another 14%, FYI.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Cirruslydakota – - –

        Very good comment. You are right. This recall nonsense has got to stop.
        It costs car companies $ millions and does not address the issue that life is not perfect.
        Most car companies did the best they could for the era and circumstances they lived in.
        Let’s give up this sue-everybody-at-all-cost mentality, started by Ralph Nader.

        (Frankly, as an aside, I think the Corvair was a great little car that just need some improvements. I have known several owners/drivers who would fully agree.)

        ————-

        • 0 avatar
          jimbob457

          My college roommate had a red Corvair convertible. He ended up in a cornfield and/or cow pasture at least three times – I know because I was the one who had to go pick him up each time. Sure, it later turned out that a Corvair was OK if you kept the tire pressure up, but why didn’t the geniuses at GM clue us in when it mattered?

          I say, GOD BLESS YOU MR. NADER and all your works. Without you, no telling how many times I would have had to go pick the guy up after his Corvair spun out into a field.

      • 0 avatar
        rpol35

        If this is such a huge problem then why arent XJ Cherokees being recalled from 1984-2001? They had their tanks in the same exact location, same with ALL Wranglers. What about Ford Broncos or Chevrolet Blazers? They had the same location usually without skid plates.

        Exactly! As a matter of fact, virtually every domestic car made in the ’60′s and ’70′s had fuel tanks in the exact same location, between the rear bumper/frame rail and the differential. I know, I have owned many from that era. I don’t understand why if it wasn’t a problem for a generation of cars made back then, it is now for a select group made in the last few years. I do still own a XJ, seems that car should be affected too.

        Oh and I like CNN’s cavalier attitude with other people’s money, “(It will cost) Chrysler no more than $300 million to install a 3 millimeter steel skid, a fuel tank check valve and better fuel filler hose.”

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Most cars had tanks between the rear axle and bumper. I owned a couple cars with the gas filler tube behind the rear license plate! At some point there has to be a cutoff date, but NHTSA doesn’t think so.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “If Jeep won’t correct this issue, then we, the customers should all let them rot on the lot.”

      I don’t see why we should. The data Chrysler is asserting is indicating there is a very low risk of a fire occurring in all but the most severe impacts with forces well above the standards to which the vehicles are tested.

      In those cases, even the proposed improvements would be unlikely to prevent a fuel tank rupture.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m not sold that there really is an issue here.

  • avatar
    Cirruslydakota

    This discussion is supposed to be about these vehicles catching fire when a high speed rear end collision occours, and yet the video you post up is a Liberty with an engine fire? Generating clicks indeed. Besides the ZJ Grand Cherokee thats clearly been rear ended hard, all the other photos tell me you just googled “Jeeps on fire lol!” and posted them in the article to generate excitement.

    Fail.

    I own a 1999 WJ Grand Cherokee and I dont feel that its any less safe than any other suv built from that era. If it met and exceeded the safety standards at that time and passed then I dont see a reason why they should recall a 20 year old vehicle. Why arent we hearing about issues with the Wrangler and Cherokee which have the tank in the same exact location?

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    I don’t know if the pictures provided came from the NHTSA or if Bertel found them on his own; however, the photos do not provide evidence of the rear-mounted gas tank causing the fire. On the contrary, most of these photos show no cause-effect relation.

    Photo #1: The angle of the photograph does not allow view of the rear of the vehicle. It is impossible to determine where the vehicle was impacted.

    Photo #2: Frontal damage of the vehicle is evident, as the grill, headlamps, front bumper and other components are missing. From the angle of this photo, the rear appears to be structually intact.

    Photo #3: The rear of this vehicle shows no structural damage from impact, nor at the rear quarter panels on either side.

    Photo #4: The only photo that could be used as proof of the gas tank causing a fire. Could be other causes, but so far the only photo that supports the argument.

    Photo #5: View of the rear is obstructed by the firefighter; however, the engine compartment appears to be the origin of the fire. Notice the amount of soot on the left front quarter panel compared to the rest of the vehicle. The hood appears to be supported by tree branches-the vehicle’s owner maybe opened the hood when smoke started coming out.

    If this is how the NHTSA is presenting their argument: Shame.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I saw a Liberty burning on the interstate about 10 years ago. The intense heat of the burning vehicle was incredible. As we drove past, 30 ft away, the heat blasted right into my Impreza’s cabin. The family got out in time; they were watching the car blaze away. I couldn’t tell if there was a collision. I don’t recall seeing another car there.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I saw an Impreza burn to the ground on a secondary highway about 4 years ago. Fortunately everyone was able to get out without injury, and I was able to call 911 from a cell phone.

      In this case the fire was caused by a fuel leak after the Subaru hit a deer. It didn’t stop me from buying another Subaru last fall though.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        You got me there. I was, clearly, saying that Jeep Liberties are the only car that ever catches fire and you should never, ever buy a Jeep Liberty because it will burn up and likely kill your family.

        Or you could take it for what it said. Since this post is about fires in Jeep Liberties, I was saying that, oddly enough, I’ve actually seen one on fire. I hadn’t thought about it for years until I saw this post. I’m not trying to imply anything (hence the comment about not seeing another car that could have rear ended the Jeep). It was simply an anecdote. It isn’t everyday you see a car that is burning to the ground on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Isn’t it amazing how much heat a car fire generates? It’s surprising if you haven’t been around that kind of thing before. Definitely not the same as an equivalently sized beach bonfire.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        There was a big black mark on the road where the Subaru mentioned above burned for months after the fire. I never stopped to take a close look, but it almost looked as though the pavement was charred.

        I also saw some burned out semis once – the fire was so hot some of the glass and metal parts had melted…

        • 0 avatar
          bk_moto

          I remember back in 2004 there was a tanker truck that crashed on I-95 in Connecticut and caught fire on an overpass. The tanker truck was carrying heating oil which spilled and ignited. The resulting fire was so intense that the steel girders supporting the overpass weakened and buckled, closing the highway for a while afterward until CT could rebuild the overpass.

          But then again everyone knows that an oil-fed fire can’t generate enough heat to weaken structural steel. *rolleyes*
          Must have been thermite.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I question why this article had to be a Toyota NHTSA double standard instead of a Chrysler and Toyota NHTSA double standard. The same over-reaction is apparent in both cases. I fail to see how Toyota is any more or less equal in their eyes.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The NHTSA investigated these fatal fires quietly for years. Ray LaHood loudly announced that people should stop driving their Toyotas before the NHTSA had found any actual problems with their cars and then sat on reports that cleared Toyota for as long as he could. There is nothing subtle about the difference between the way the NHTSA handled the two companies.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Lahood stepped out and shot his mouth off before he should have in Toyota’s case. He later corrected himself to say that owners should contact their dealers to have their recalls performed. One man’s poor judgement hardly indicates a conspiracy against Toyota.

        What both of these incidents tell me is that the entire agency has administrative problems that selectively single out issues in general that might not be as alarming as they make them seem, rather than picking on one automaker over another.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          Some will see conspiracies against Toyota and want to correct them. Must come from “familiarity” or coziness might be a more apt term.

          “Familiarity makes for mutual respect. It’s easy to hurt someone who doesn’t like you either, it’s harder to throw written invectives at someone you will see face-to-face tomorrow.”

          http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-special-edition-the-truth-about-getting-in/

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            Mike – - -

            Great reference, and a good review.
            Bertel hit a high point of openness and sincerity.

            ———-

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          “One man’s poor judgement hardly indicates a conspiracy against Toyota.”

          Thanks. I needed a good laugh. Why does it have to be a conspiracy? A political appointee in a position of power used it to help his cronies. This regime loves to say that all of its crimes are just individuals exercising poor judgement. It happens every day now.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I didn’t accuse anyone of conspiring. This article seems to alledge that NHTSA somehow conspired against Toyota by exercising a double standard versus what they did with Chrysler. Aside from Lahood’s bafoonery, both situations seem equally poorly managed.

            I would argue that NHTSA applied a double standard with Toyota and Chrysler versus the rest of the industry in these cases, not one more than the other.

            To argue that Toyota was treated a little bit worse than Chrysler is entirely beside the point of the issue. Like arguing why did a murderer apply a double standard when he stabbed one victim 34 times, versus only 27 on the second. Who cares? They’re both dead.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Dear Chrysler; we would like you to spend a mere $300 million (which to us in D.C. is couch-cushion money) to re-engineer your vehicles, some of which were designed 20-30 years ago. We also appreciate your willingness to re-expose yourself to lawsuits by modifying vehicles built prior to your bankruptcy thus negating the immunity you had arranged for the “new” Chrysler. You see, now that the recession is over and the economy is doing great (because we said so) we’re going back to our standard posture of beating up on all non-crony enterprises. Hopefully your UAW partners won’t object, but we know how to finesse unions.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    The article raises a valid point. The NHTSA sure seemed quick to blame Toyota. Spending 4 years reviewing problems with Jeep and only after what I would guess is a THOROUGH review they issued a recall reccomendation to Chrysler.

    I think Chrysler is misplaying their hand in this (as did Toyota for opposite reasons) because given the length of time the NHTSA reviewed this I think they probably have ample evidence here.

    The Grand Cherokees from that era are starting to get rare as hens teeth in my neighborhood but a 2007 Liberty isn’t that old. I know several women that have bought them for the “cute” factor and this bad PR will have them trading those in on CRV’s and RAV4′s in no time. Just FIX IT CHRYSLER and save some customers that aren’t Jeep-o-philes.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Chrysler’s counterpoints are:

    1. Fires of this nature in Chrysler products are no more common than other makes.
    2. Lots of other mfrs locate their fuel tanks in the same manner.
    3. No vehicle can be expected to survive a 65 mph rear-end collision. (Ford will be sympathetic on this point, since the police Crown Vic design was attacked for blowing up after 70 mph rear-end hits.)

    I think I agree with them. One could post pictures of many burning cars, but it doesn’t mean the mfr is negligent.

  • avatar
    ez3276

    Weren’t these vehicles all built by pre-bankruptcy “Old Chrysler “? Maybe Sergio doesn’t think New Chrysler is liable………or not.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      My point exactly; however, if the ‘new’ company agrees to take responsibility and install 2013 mods on them, they would likely open the door again to future claims either because the fixes weren’t ‘good enough’ to eliminate the problem or they created new vulnerabilities. The BK gave them a massive ‘get out of jail’ card that I can’t see them throwing away for any amount of good PR.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    It’s worth noting that there was a media feeding-frenzy before the NHTSA went after Toyota, fueled by a dramatic recording of a phone call recorded seconds before one of the victims died. If the media’s been going after Chrysler, I haven’t heard about, so there’s a lot less pressure on the NHTSA to “do something”.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    Our government out to protect us again. This is just one more example of overreach. Publishing the pictures-as if we have never seen a burned out car before-is an attempt to get Fiat to bend to their wishes. These photos will shock many owners of these vehicles and cause others to discount Jeep and possibly Chrysler for a future purchase.

    I do not think that making the requested modifications will result in these SUV’s not leaking fuel after a severe crash. I think these charges are just another way to draw attention away from several other scandals surrounding the Federal Government at this time.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Imperial

      +1

      That’s the Modus Operandi of this administration: Publicly define your enemies in such a negative way, that any retort or retaliation appears to infer cover-up, negligence, or ineptitude.

      Just ask how Mitt felt about having to release his tax returns.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        All politicians should, along with their investing information, and all office/travel expenses.

        I want to know exactly what conflicts of interest they may have, tax avoidance they may attempt and how much they defraud the public purse through their spending. If you’re asking me to trust you with the powers that come with high office, then I want to know everything about you so that I can ensure you won’t screw things up.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      walleyeman57 – - –

      Although originally well intended, does NSHTA serve a valid and productive purpose any longer?

      ————–

      • 0 avatar
        walleyeman57

        Yes.

        But I think they may have lost sight of that purpose in this case.

        Then again what the heck do I know about crash worthiness? It seems, on the surface, that this case is about showing who is boss.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        My own view is that NHTSA should cease to exist as an independent entity and be downsized to whatever representation that the USA deems appropriate on the various groups that establish the UN-ECE standards, and then adopt the UN-ECE standards so that vehicles in the USA are the same as in the rest of the world and vice versa. One set of worldwide standards!!

        Likewise for the EPA, by the way.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    My in-laws had a 94 Grand Cherokee. Them being recent immigrants, they got sweet-talked into buying the top of the line with the sunroof, leather, etc. and even paid thousands more for one of those step rail things so my short MIL can get into the car. They ended up paying around $40,000 for it. In 1994. Just looked up the inflation calculator and that’s $61,000 in today’s dollars.

    A few years ago, I was instructed by them to sell the car. Electrical gremlins that were un-curable (doors won’t lock, for one), seized rods or something or another, leaks everywhere – that thing was definitely falling apart fast. This $40,000 car sold for $7,000 on Craigslist with 40,000 miles on it. That’s the last time they got near a domestic. It was also around that time my FIL said “Hey, let’s look at VW. They have a big 2.5L engine so it’s safe!” I politely talked him out of that one.

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      I sold Jeeps in 94 and the most expensive GC was like 32k. So 17 years or so later you got 7k for it. That’s awesome. Do you think a 94 Toyota or BMW would be worth more. Only a handful of cars would hold 25% value after 17 years. I have a 91 Acura Integra. It leaks and I’ve had to replace both power window motors at the 17 year mark and its one of the best cars ever made. Things break, rubber seals dry out. I bet the motor on that GC still ran strong. YOu have unreasonable expectations. By the way the door lock woul have cost $100-$120 to fix.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        cgjeep: I left out some important details. All of the issues I discussed surfaced within the first 2-3 years of ownership. The car was then essentially mothballed for the most part since. It’s driven probably once every 2 months just to keep it alive – they didn’t sell it as they had some irrational fear of bad weather that they believed only a Jeep can handle.

        I just checked my old emails for the record and I sold it in 2006. So it was 12 years old when I sold it.

        Like I said, they totally got fleeced by the salesman and they most likely purchased every add-on they presented, so $40k sounds about right.

        For a comparison, they bought a Corolla the same year for about $15,000. I also sold that car for them. We got $3,000 for it at around the same time – though this car had 160,000 miles on it. It had zero repairs in its entire lifespan.

        I’m not sure what you mean by unreasonable expectations. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a car to not fall apart before 40,000 miles, regardless of make.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I’m calling BS.

      The 1998 Grand Cherokee with the 5.9L engine (base price $38,175) could have been $40K, but even a fully loaded 1994 GC Limited with the 5.2 V8 wouldn’t have hit that number without buying rust protection, VIN etching, extended warranty, etc.

      Furthermore, you’re talking about a 15+ year old car having certain issues that are normal for cars of that age, especially on cars that probably weren’t maintained very well over those 15+ years, as is likely the case here.

      Getting $7K for that car was probably pretty good — you probably got a sucker who liked that it only had 40,000 miles.

      Jeep Grand Cherokees certainly weren’t the most reliable vehicles in the early years, but your story doesn’t really tell us much.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        “I’m calling BS.”

        Sure. Because I profit from every person who buys my “story” on the Interwebs.

        As I said – they purchased every thing the dealer pitched at them. They’re gullible that way. Roof racks, towing accessories, windshield/hood protector, step rails. The thing looked like something designed for duty in the Third World. It wouldn’t surprise me that it boosted it north of $40k as they weren’t going to question any of these costs or check the MSRP or anything like that. I’m sure they happily paid MSRP + dealer markup + “market area markup” (or whatever they called that back then). They have a lot more money than sense.

        And as I said in my second reply, all of these issues surfaced in the first 2-3 years of ownership. Then it was a lot of warranty work and $$$ after the warranty to keep in running.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Pfft, you should see where the gas tank in the back of my 1967 Impala is. Can I get a recall?

    But seriously, it should be noted that not all fuel tank breaches result in fire. So you can probably take the number of people burned or injured and mulitply it exponentially to get an idea of how many accidents result in fuel escaping. Frankly, I’d rather not take the risk in a car I drive every day and avoid these vehicles. There are many ways you can die in a car, but the worst for me would be in a fire.

    It’s times like these when I think about how people claim hydrogen fuel cells are too dangerous. It’s almost as if people no longer think gasoline is a dangerous substance.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    To be honest this shouldn’t have been an issue to start with, had Chrysler started installing shields during one of the gazillion face-lifts they wouldn’t be in this situation.

    More on topic, there is quite a bit of a bias from the NHTSA with what cars they callout on.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Who has exactly said that a shield is the “end all be all” fix?

      And no there hasn’t been a gazillion face lifts.

      Fuel tank was moved inboard of the rear axle for 2005.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Read cgjeeps response, I was wrong about the skidplate stuff.

        And the “gazillion” term was sarcastic, they had like 4 or 5 from what I know, but in my narrow mind thats still too much.

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      All WJ Grand Cherokees (99-04) already have a skid plate on the fuel tank so that isn’t the answer. We had an 06 Liberty (no skid) and got slammed into from behind by a Chevy Pick-up truck going 45 MPH while we were stopped on a bridge. Drive Jeep home fine, I had to tow the truck off the bridge for the police; we were uninjured. Though it did have a receiver that protected tank a bit.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I feel for those who lost loved ones to these accidents, but 50 deaths out of millions of vehicles seems, unfortunately, normal. Not saying that this absolves Chrysler of under-engineering these vehicles, but I don’t know if this is a recall issue. Given the Toyota nonsense of a few years ago or the Ford v Firestone battle, I can see Chrysler putting up a fight.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Isn’t this somewhat similar to the GM side-saddle gas tank pickup debacle of the mid 1990s? Tort attorneys were having a field day, NHTSA was investigating, and NBC even mounted little bombs in one to “simulate” a side-collision explosion on Dateline (though they forgot to mention it was only a simulation… or that they had rigged it).

    If I recall correctly, GM was eventually off the hook on the whole thing and the design was found safe. Fires were statistically no more likely with the tanks mounted on the outside of the frame. In one of the crashes that started the whole NBC thing it was later revealed that the owner had lost the gas cap to his truck and had just been using a rag stuffed in the fuel filler neck when the accident happened. A horrible accident, but a bit outside of the engineering parameters for the fuel system.

    Yeah, it’s easy to say “the gas tank is mounted behind the frame like on a Pinto” and scare the crap out of everyone. But the reality is that there has been a lot of crashworthiness improvement in all vehicles since the Pinto and fuel leakage post accident is one of the standards that vehicles have to meet now. I am not an engineer and am not familiar with these Jeeps, but I have to imagine that Chrysler has a pretty good case if they are standing up to NHTSA this way.

    • 0 avatar
      walleyeman57

      Lets not forget the political and tort side of this.

      The party currently in power owes much of its funding to the trial lawyers. Perhaps this is a bone to them?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Yeah, it’s easy to say “the gas tank is mounted behind the frame like on a Pinto” and scare the crap out of everyone.”

      Exactly. Since the Pinto there have been millions of other vehicles built and sold with fuel tanks mounted behind the axle aside from these Jeeps. These other vehicles met the safety standards set forth at the time as well. It’s hardly an indicator of a defect or negligence in design.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    One thing is certain;
    this could become a three-ring media circus very quickly.

    This will be picked up by all the news outlets, in print, TV and Internet. With dozens of experts providing their talking points and taking sides.

    And of course, political pundits exploiting the fact about the “socialization” of America.

    Look forward to be entertained.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Back in 2001-2004, I had a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee (which is also included in this recommendation from the NHTSA) and it ALWAYS wreaked of fuel. I could never figure out where the vapor smell was coming from, nor could the dealer.

    Glad to know that I could have burst into flames.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      What’s the correlation between a cabin that smells of fuel and fires caused by a rear impact? My Miata – as well as many others based on forum posts – has a faint fuel smell from a porous rubber fuel hose which passes through the trunk that can allow vapours into the cabin. Should the NHTSA be screaming that the sky is falling due to rear impact fires on the Miata, as well?

      I’d be much more worried about bursting into flames from lighting a cigarette, static charge, or any other source of spark in the cabin than some wacky imagined scenario that getting hit from the rear would light it off.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Those who see this as a plot by our foreign-born president to take the attention off the 3 impeachment-worthy scandals currently raging have missed a few important clues.

    The NHTSA is actually a front for a certain Nationalist Socialist party from the fatherland. They even share a few initials with the Nazis. This is actually a plot by them to get back at the Italians who now own Jeep for their lackluster performance in a certain alliance going back to the early 1940′s.

    Remember what vehicle the allies used against the Italians back then? Yes, a Jeep. Payback is a wienershnitzel, baby.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to make a major purchase from a company that has consistently churned out sub par garbage for more than 40 years. Chrysler is no different today than it has been for decades. Not trolling…just not understanding.

  • avatar
    mvlbr

    Toyota faced a witch hunt for driver error over unintended acceleration yet here is chrysler with cars catching fire yet no huge media turn out or congressional hearings.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      This is a bizarre complaint. The Toyota stuff unfolded over a several month period. This Chrysler thing happened today, and there has been no media frenzy over it yet. How could you even compare the two at this point?

      Even with respect to LaHood’s rash statements, that was after weeks of media coverage and a Congressional hearing over all this.

  • avatar
    AJ

    …. “a fuel tank check valve and better fuel filler hose,” says CNN…

    Ha ha! My TJ Wrangler, like most TJs use to spit fuel every time I filled it up (didn’t shut off the pump in time). Chrysler has been silent on this issue too. It took a Jeep guy to figure out that all we had to do was to replace the fuel filler hose with a $10 one made by GM. Problem solved.

    Plus, my TJ Wrangler also has an OPDA issue. It’s faulty, and Chrysler knows that too, and all the dealer will do is replace the failed OPDA with another one that will fail again. Don’t catch it in time and there goes the engine. Jeep guys again are modifying the original OPDAs, and I believe someone else is now selling a redesigned OPDA. (Leave it to the private market what do what Chrysler won’t or can’t.)

    Maybe Jeep would be better off with someone like Honda owning them? Just a thought…

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      I had an 02 TJ with 19 gallon tank and I was never able to put more than 13 gallons in it. Fuel light would come on, I would drive for another 30 miles or so(2 gallons) stop and get fuel and only able to put 13 gallons in it. Could never figure it out. Thought maybe I had a 15 gallon gauge as you use to be able to get a TJ either way.

      10 years of beating the heck out of it and only had to replace front brake hoses and a vacuum hose for the AC. OPDA issue I think was only for 04-06.

      2010 Honda Odyssey,leased for 3 years . Replaced power steering pump, torque converter, both axles, and one strut assembly all with under 30k miles. Oh and 1 qt of oil every 1k mile and Honda thought that was fine. On long trips with family used to have to put oil in it and its scary because engine only takes 4 quarts. Shouldn’t have to keep a quart of oil in a new modern car.

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    Previous to Fiat owning Chrysler, Cerberus owned them. George Soros owns Cerberus and gives millions of dollars to the Obama campaign. He also made millions, if not billions of dollars on the sale to Fiat. Toyota didn’t. Connect the dots people.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      No offense, but are you extremely gullible and do you lack the ability to think critically?

      George Soros has never been affiliated with Cerberus.

      Even the NRA has stated this:
      http://www.nraila.org/223471

      Steve Feinberg, who founded Cerberus, is a big Republican donor, and Cerberus has employed Dan Quayle. Yes, that Dan Quayle.

      Take off your tinfoil hat.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        For some reason this rumor keeps on living, no matter how many times it’s been proven false. I think the wingers just want it to be true, so it stays alive, like a vampire.

  • avatar
    50merc

    No one will be surprised if the next thing is Chrysler gets audited by the IRS, beat up by OSHA and shut down by EPA. It’s the Chicago way.

    This whole fuss just goes to show Ford had the right idea with the Model A, with the fuel tank below the windshield, in the driver’s lap.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Go ahead and call me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but here goes: government pumps massive amounts of cash into GM, then launches a scare campaign against Toyota. Government wants to sell its GM stock, launches a scare campaign against Chrysler. Am I the only one who sees a pattern here?

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Sidenote: You guys REALLY need to go to the NHTSA site and browse complaints. I would guesstimate that a good 35% of them are tantamount to…

    “CUSTOMER INDICATES THAT WHILE DRIVING AT HIGHWAY SPEED A CHIME CAME ON THAT INDICATED LOW FUEL. CUSTOMER INDICATES CHIME IS OF EXCESSIVE VOLUME AND STARTLED HIM, CAUSING HIM TO DEFECATE HIS PANTS. CUSTOMER REPORTS FOUL ODOR IN CAR. CUSTOMER HAS TAKEN TO CAR DEALERSHIP WHO CANNOT REPAIR FAILURE. CUSTOMER HAS CONTACT MANUFACTURER TO NO RESPONSE.”

    Its hilarious.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Welcome to the service side of the industry. Most of it isn’t about fixing cars, but fixing customers.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It’s worse when it comes to items for children. Our daughter’s bath seat was recalled because if left alone, an infant can drown while in the chair. Who leaves their infant alone in the bath tub?

      There were also a number of infant seats and the like recalled because if they are placed on a table or counter, the child could fall out and hit the floor.

  • avatar
    Oelmotor

    We`ll see, but Chrysler might have the better lobbyists and lawyers.

    I would rather deal with a stuck accelerator in a Toyota over a Jeep in flames.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    A tow truck operator in a former life, I attended dozens of car fires. All were underhood fires due to a fuel leak, overheated alternator or AC compressor. I can’t remember towing a car that burned as a result of a rear-end collision fuel tank rupture. Not saying they don’t happen, just that they’re rare, and a horrible way to die.

    Nonetheless, it’s hard to fathom why Chrysler would design a modern vehicle with an unprotected fuel tank aft of the rear axle after the Pinto, Ford’s four-passenger furnace, court case.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Nonetheless, it’s hard to fathom why Chrysler would design a modern vehicle with an unprotected fuel tank aft of the rear axle after the Pinto, Ford’s four-passenger furnace, court case.”

      Because when the vehicles in question were designed, it was still fairly common to place the tank in this location as the vehicles could easily meet the design standards of the day with the tank placed there. These Jeeps were hardly the only vehicles designed after the Pinto to have the tank placed in that position. Millions upon millions of common vehicles had rear mounted tanks after that. The simple placement of the tank in that location does not indicate a defect in design.


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