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NHTSA upgrades probe into Jeep fuel tanks

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 00:00:00 -0700

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has upgraded its investigation into the fuel tank on three Jeep models to an engineering analysis, another step toward what could become a recall.

Safety advocates say the location of the fuel tank, mounted behind the rear axle, makes it prone to catching fire in the event of a rear crash.

The investigation covers Jeep Grand Cherokees built between 1993 and 2004, Jeep Cherokees built between 1993 and 2001, and Jeep Liberty SUVs built between 2002 and 2007. The total number of vehicles affected is estimated to be around 5.1 million.

Initially, the NHTSA studied the fuel tank for only the Grand Cherokee in response to 26 complaints. As a result of that analysis, the NHTSA decided to expand the range of vehicles.

Chrysler said it is cooperating with the investigation. It also cites its study of publicly available data that shows that the risk of exposure to fire in rear-end collisions is no greater in Grand Cherokees than in other similar vehicles.

The NHTSA's investigation compares the Grand Cherokee's fuel system with that of three similar vehicles: the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner. The NHTSA's preliminary findings indicate that fuel-tank failures and fires in rear-end collisions are more prevalent in the Grand Cherokee than in the comparison vehicles.

By Seth Harrison