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NHTSA considers investigation into 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee models over fuel tank concerns

by Drew Johnson

Following Toyot's recall of 3.8 million vehicles prompted by a fiery crash that killed four people in southern California, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is considering an investigation involving 1993 to 2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokee models over a potentially hazardous fuel tank.

Although no investigation has officially been launched, the NHTSA is considering a probe following a "defect petition" submitted by the Center for Auto Safety last month. The petition claims the fuel tank on 1993-2004 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees extends below the vehicle's bumper, therefore creating a fire hazard.

"The fuel tank of the Grand Cherokee is plastic and extends below the rear bumper so there is nothing to protect the tank from a direct hit in a rollover or by a vehicle with a low front profile or one lowered by pre-impact braking," the Center for Auto Safety said in its petition.

The Center for Auto Safety claims that 172 fire crashes can be blamed on the Grand Cherokee's gas tank defect, resulting in 254 deaths - more than four times the fatal-crash-with-fire rate of other SUV model, according to Automotive News.

The Grand Cherokee's fuel tank location was moved in 2005 and was given additional shielding.

Even if a defect is ultimately found, a recall could be a ways off as defect petitions can take up to several years to complete.