For California product liability class action lawyers, it's almost like a revisit to the Ford Pinto exploding gas tank crisis of the 70s. This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it would soon begin investigating thousands of Grand Jeep Cherokees for a possible defective gas tank design that could increase the risks of a fire and explosion.
The NHTSA investigation has been triggered by efforts by consumer safety group, Center for Auto Safety. The group has called on the NHTSA to investigate whether the gas tank design in the Grand Jeep Cherokee - below the rear bumper and behind the rear axle-could cause a fuel leak if it is involved in a rear end collision. The group also wants the NHTSA to determine whether the plastic tank could puncture during a rollover because of a lack of protective shielding for it. The group also has concerns about whether the neck of the tank could wear off. According to the Center for Auto Safety, the design and placement of the gas tank in the Grand Jeep Cherokee is “terrible” and increases the risks of a gas tank explosion during impact.
The NHTSA is not making any commitments at this point in time. The agency says it has not found any additional instances of gas tank fires in rear end collisions involving the Grand Jeep Cherokees, compared to other sports utility vehicles. However, the agency has reports of 44 accidents involving the Grand Jeep Cherokee since 1992. These accidents have ended in 55 deaths. In all of these accidents, fire was listed as the most harmful factor. Out of these accidents, at least 10 crashes and three deaths were associated with rear ender collisions.
The Jeep Cherokees in the investigation includes models manufactured between 1993 and 2004. An estimated 3 million vehicles are involved in the investigation.