Government safety officials have expanded an investigation into gas tank fires in older-model Jeep Grand Cherokees.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently added Cherokee and Liberty models to the probe, which began nearly two years ago.
Currently, the probe covers roughly 5.1 million vehicles and has paid special attention to SUV’s gas tanks, which are known to be damaged in rear-impact crashes, causing fires.
The agency says 15 people have died in 26 Grand Cherokee fires.
The Jeeps included in the investigation are the1993 to 2004 Grand Cherokees as well as 1993-2001 Cherokees and 2002-2007 Liberty sport utility vehicles.
An analysis of crash data revealed that more people died in rear-impact crashes and fires in these types of Jeeps than in other types of vehicles.
So far, none of the Jeeps have been recalled, but a further investigation by the NHTSA could lead to it if they find the vehicles present “an unreasonable risk to safety.”
Chrysler, which manufactures the Jeeps, responded by saying the Jeeps meet safety regulations and the rear-impact fires are rare.
The Grand Cherokee investigation started in August 2010 and reviewed about 3 million vehicles. NHTSA started the probe after getting a request from the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group. The center argues that the plastic gas tanks are poorly designed and don’t have proper shielding.
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