A top safety advocate is calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to reopen its investigation into rear-mounted fuel tanks on older model Jeep SUVs, saying the vehicles continue to be dangerous even after they’re repaired in accordance with a 2013 recall.
The Center for Auto Safety said it found in an NHTSA database a total of 19 deaths that involved older model Jeeps that caught fire in fatal accidents since the recall began in June 2013.
The deaths show that installing a trailer hitch to protect gas tanks in low-speed crashes hasn’t been effective, said Clarence Ditlow, head of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, in a letter to NHTSA dated Friday.
“More people will die from fire in recalled Chrysler Jeeps because the recall remedy negotiated behind closed doors by Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, (former) DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and (former) NHTSA Administrator David Strickland is totally ineffective,” Ditlow said in his letter.
The Detroit-area automaker contends that Ditlow counts fatal accidents in his data that should be excluded because other factors other than the location of the fuel tank contributed in those case. The automaker continues to say its Jeep SUVs are no more dangerous than similar vehicles.
“These are tragic accidents caused by factors such as excessive speed and driver distraction,” FCA said in a statement. “Two dozen peer-vehicles had higher [Fatality Analysis Reporting System] incident rates than vehicles subject to the NHTSA investigation in question; 15 of which are equipped with fuel tanks of the same design.”