Jeep Gas Tank Recall Repairs Not Being Completed Quick Enough

Chrysler Group is coming under increased scrutiny for delaying repairs and not supplying parts fast enough to address vulnerably placed gas tanks in certain Jeep SUVs, following the recent death of a pregnant Michigan woman who was killed while driving a Jeep vehicle that was recalled almost 17 months ago.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recorded at least 52 deaths in connection with nearly 1.6 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty vehicles that were recalled in June 2013, due to a risk of the gas tanks igniting or leaking fuel in rear-impact accidents.

The recent death of a pregnant woman in Michigan was highlighted in a report by the Wall Street Journal on November 17, indicating that the 23-year old was killed following a rear-end collision involving an un-repaired 2003 Jeep Liberty, which caught fire following a rear-end accident.

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Chrysler issued the Jeep gas tank recall last year, impacting 2002–2007 Jeep Liberty and 1993–1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles. The action was taken after the NHTSA determined that the positioning of the gas tank behind the rear axle of the SUV are within the “crush zone” when struck from behind.

Prior to the recall, the Center for Auto Safety pushed for more than 5 million Jeeps to be recalled due to the risk of death from fire following a rear-impact accident. However, Chrysler resisted issuing the Jeep recall, maintaining that the vehicles were safe.

It was not until the NHTSA produced a three year back-track of accident reports involving fatal fiery rear-end collisions in the SUV’s and four more people dying in fiery crashes during the “denial stage” that Chrysler Group agreed that a “public concern” was present and agree to recall 1.6 million of the vehicles.

Few Jeeps Actually Repaired

In recent months, Chrysler has been criticized for delays in repairing the Jeep gas tank problems, with the NHTSA releasing a letter in July 2014 that indicated the auto-maker was moving too slow to make necessary repairs to prevent gas tanks from exploding or catching fire.

The repair strategy has involved bolting tow hitches to the rear frame of the recalled Jeeps to better protect the fuel tank in rear-end collisions. However, the fix has been criticized by safety advocates as being insufficient protection for the fuel tank..

The Wall Street Journal reports that Chrylser has only repaired about 8% of the 1.6 million vehicles impacted by the recall, even though it has been nearly one and a half years.

Although Chrysler has claimed to be moving as quickly as possible to complete the repairs, at their current rate, the Jeep recall repairs could take almost five years to fix every affected vehicle, and two years if only half of the owners come forward.

In addition to the criticized repair strategy, the Wall Street Journal indicates that it has identified more than 300 complaints on the NHTSA’s website from owners who said they have had trouble getting their Jeeps fixed since the repairs began in August 2013.

Specifically, the Wall Street Journal spoke with the owner of a recalled 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee who was told by a dealer the trailer hitch fix would not work on his vehicle due to the frame being too rusted. The dealer told the owner of the vehicle that he would be responsible for the costs to have the frame repaired before the dealer would install the hitch assembly.

Another complaint filed with the NHTSA indicated a Jeep owner was handed a $3,146 repair estimate by a dealer to fix the frame rust before making the vehicle repairable for the recall.

Chrysler Group continues to maintain that the Jeep gas tank placement is not defective, and indicates that it has only agreed to comply with the regulations outlined by the NHTSA. Chrysler has also defended its handling of the recalled vehicles saying “customers will be advised what, if any, repairs are needed before the installation can be performed.”

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