The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Chrysler have been at odds over the alleged safety hazard posed by the positioning of gas tanks in Jeeps. The NHTSA requested that Chrysler voluntarily recall certain models of Jeeps in which the gas tank had ruptured during accidents that resulted in 51 deaths. Chrysler initially refused, saying that the company disagreed with the NHTSA conclusions, but then changed course and recalled Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993-2004 model years and Jeep Liberty vehicles from 2002-2007. This impacts approximately 2.7 million vehicles. An NHTSA statement noted:
“On vehicles in the recall that are not equipped with a tow hitch, Chrysler will install a Chrysler designed tow hitch free of charge, provided the condition of the vehicle can support proper installation. On vehicles in the recall that are equipped with an aftermarket tow hitch, Chrysler will assess whether the hitch and surrounding areas show evidence of sharp edges or other puncture risks. If so, Chrysler will replace the tow hitch with a Chrysler designed tow hitch free of charge, provided the condition of the vehicle can support proper installation. On vehicles already equipped with a Chrysler designed tow hitch, Chrysler will inspect the area around the tow hitch installation, and if any installation issues are identified, they will be repaired free of charge.”
A statement by Chrysler reiterates that the company does not consider the Jeeps in question defective, but says that it has taken these steps “to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles.”
However, an article in the New York Times reported that the Center for Auto Safety complained to the NHTSA that the recall didn’t go far enough. The organization argued that a trailer hitch didn’t go far enough to prevent fuel tank ruptures in rear end collisions. The Center for Auto Safety is advocating for crash tests and the alternative solution of installing a steel shield around the gas tank.