3 million Jeep Grand Cherokees in safety probe

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal safety regulators have opened an investigation into gas tanks that could pose a fire danger on an estimated 3 million older Jeep Grand Cherokees, documents showed Tuesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it launched the preliminary investigation on Monday in response to a petition it received in October from consumer watchdog the Center for Auto Safety. The probe does not mean the vehicles are being recalled.

CAS claims that Jeep Grand Cherokees made between 1993 and 2004 have defective fuel tank storage systems that present a fire hazard in crashes. The group said federal records indicate that the Cherokees in question were involved in 172 fire crashes where 254 people died. But it did not say specifically that defective fuel tanks were to blame.

According to CAS, the plastic gas tank on the Jeep Grand Cherokees from those model years was placed behind the rear axle and below the bumper, where it could be ruptured in a rear-impact collision. The tanks in question also had inadequate shielding, the group said.

In response, NHTSA reviewed the records going back to 1992 and identified 10 crashes where the alleged defect may have been a factor. Those crashes resulted in 13 deaths, the agency said.

Scott Brown, spokesman for Chrysler Group, which makes Jeep, said that the company is fully cooperating with NHTSA in the investigation.

"The 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety and has an excellent safety record," Brown wrote in an e-mail to CNNMoney.com. To top of page

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