— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has formally closed its investigation into rear-impact fires in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokee, and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles.
The investigation eventually grew to include 5 million vehicles that were affected by fuel systems located behind the rear axle. Safety regulators were concerned a rear-end crash could cause a rupture of the tank or fuel system.
In June, 2013, NHTSA asked Chrysler to recall 2.7 million vehicles saying that fires are more common in the Grand Cherokee than in non-Jeep vehicles such as the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Explorer.
Chrysler claimed their vehicles were safe and refused the government recall request, only to change their mind a few weeks later. Even then, Chrysler recalled about 1.5 million vehicles instead of the 2.7 million requested by NHTSA.
At the same time, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) wanted 5 million vehicles recalled claiming the location of the gas tank and fuel system had caused 478 people to perish in 349 fatal fires. CAS says children as young as four years old have been burned to death after a rear-end collision in the affected vehicles.
Chrysler's idea for the limited recall is to install trailer hitches on certain model year 1992-98 Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Liberty vehicles, but to this day none have been installed. Further, it's questionable how much good a trailer hitch will do in a rear-end crash.
Chrysler admits the hitch is worthless in a high-speed rear-end crash and says the hitch will provide only “incremental improvement in the crash energy management in low- to moderate-speed rear collisions.”
Additionally, François Castaing, Chrysler's former vice president for engineering, admitted in 2011 the tow package will not protect the tank at all.
To top things off, many Jeep fires occurred in vehicles that already had a trailer hitch installed.
“It is tragic that NHTSA approved Chrysler’s sham trailer hitch recall for Jeeps that explode in rear impacts. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland will be remembered as the Administrator who took a job with one of Chrysler’s lawfirms rather than save more children like Cassidy Jarmon from burning to deaths in Jeeps with trailer hitches." - Executive Director Clarence Ditlow, The Center for Auto Safety
The U.S. government, meanwhile, seems pleased that Chrysler is doing anything at all to fix the problem, even if the "fix" isn't a fix.
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is deeply committed to reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our nation’s roadways. Throughout this process, the agency has been in close communication with Chrysler and has no reservations at this time with their announced actions to move forward. Consumers should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive final notification from Chrysler. NHTSA will continue to monitor consumer outreach as the recall process continues.” - NHTSA