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NHTSA Weighs Reopening Probe Into Jeep Fuel Tanks

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April 10, 2015—U.S. auto-safety regulators may consider reopening an investigation into fuel-tank ruptures in some of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' older Jeep models.

Repairs on fuel tanks from a 2013 recall of 1.56 million Jeep vehicles "should be done faster, and we want to see that 100 percent," Mark Rosekind, chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters Thursday at a briefing at the New York International Auto Show. "Everything is on the table for us to look at."

If the NHTSA determines that the automaker isn't moving quickly enough, based on first-quarter data on the repairs, the agency will use that as an entry point to act, he said.

Fiat Chrysler this month was ordered to pay $150 million to the family of a 4-year-old boy who burned to death in a crash after a jury found the carmaker was reckless in its design of the gas tank for the 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

That model was included in an earlier investigation of Jeep gas-tank fires, and the NHTSA determined in June 2013 that it was safe. The 2002-07 Jeep Liberty and the 1993-98 Grand Cherokee were recalled to add towing hitches for extra protection in crashes. Consumer advocates are using the April 2 verdict as a wedge to ask the NHTSA to step in again and push for a wider recall.

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