NHTSA May Reopen Jeep SUV Probe
April 21, 2015—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will meet this week to decide whether it will reopen its probe into 2.7 million older Jeep SUVs linked to more than 50 fires.
"It is specifically starting with the numbers, which are what we all expected—very low," NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind said Tuesday, referring to the low rate of Jeep repairs.
Last week Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said its dealers have repaired less than a quarter of 1.56 million older Jeep SUVs recalled for fire risks nearly two years after agreeing to recall them.
He said earlier this month he was not happy with the pace of recalls and said he was considering reopening the government's investigation. It came after a Georgia jury found Fiat Chrysler at fault in a gas tank fire in a 1999 Jeep SUV that killed a 4-year-old boy and awarded his family $150 million.
A letter from Fiat Chrysler to dealers was posted by NHTSA last week. It said 27 percent of the Jeep Liberty SUVs and 4 percent of the Jeep Grand Cherokees have been repaired—far fewer than the 72 percent of vehicles repaired within two years in average recalls. But recall completion rates of older vehicles generally lag campaigns for newer campaigns.
Under government pressure after the crash, Fiat Chrysler recalled an estimated 1.56 million 2002-07 Jeep Liberty and 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs for the problem in June 2013. As a fix, it agreed to install trailer hitches to protect the gas tanks, which are vulnerable because of their location between the rear axle and the bumper. The company sent letters to 2.27 million owners, though it isn't clear how many are still on the road.