In January 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Chrysler reached an agreement in which Chrysler would launch a “safety campaign” to address potential fuel tank defects in 1.56 million Grand Cherokee and Liberty vehicles. In the months since, experienced Texas car accident lawyers have waited for news of the safety campaign’s beginning, so they could help spread the word to Jeep drivers. However, the campaign is off to a slow start.
The safety campaign seeks to install trailer hitches, free of charge, on Grand Cherokee vehicles produced in model years 1993-1998 and Liberty vehicles in model years 2002-2007. It represents a compromise between the positions of Chrysler and the NHTSA.
In 2009, the NHTSA launched an investigation into the safety of the vehicles’ rear-mounted fuel tanks at the request of the Center for Auto Safety. The agency found that in several accidents, the rear-mounted fuel tank caught fire when struck from behind. The fires are implicated in 51 deaths.
Armed with these findings, the NHTSA requested Chrysler perform a voluntary recall of the vehicles to fix the fuel tank problem. However, the automaker stood by its statement that the fuel tank’s mounting position is not a “defect.” Instead of recalling the vehicles, the automaker promised to launch a “safety campaign,” in which vehicle owners could have a trailer hitch mounted on the vehicle free of charge.
Although the NHTSA permitted the trailer-hitch fit, industry analysts are skeptical that the addition of a trailer hitch will help prevent rear-end accident fires in the affected vehicles. Until the safety campaign begins, however, no data is available to determine if the trailer hitches will help.