Fatal Jeep Liberty Crash Revives Questions Of Exploding Fuel Tanks

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Did the recall fix work?

Back in 2013, FCA agreed to recall and fix certain Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys that could potentially catch on fire and explode. You see, the fuel tanks in both SUVs were located between the rear suspension and bumper, and, in the case of a rear-end impact, could potentially rupture and catch fire. The recall solution was to outfit some 1 million units with protective trailer hitches. Unfortunately, that remedy may not have been good enough. Bloomberg learned of a sadly fatal crash last week involving a 2007 Jeep Liberty.

Vicki Hill of Elyria, Ohio was driving to work when she was rear-ended at a traffic light. The impact resulted in the rupture of the fuel tank, even though Hill's SUV had been equipped with the trailer hitch as per the recall. The original recall affected 1993-1998 Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Libertys, and FCA claimed at the time of the recall that the trailer hitch would be sufficient enough. Many safety advocates, however, were never convinced, and Hill's death confirms their suspicions. "Here is what appears to be a tragic incident that highlights the exact problems we were concerned about 18 month ago," stated Jason Levine, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety.

After FCA agreed to the 2014 recall, the NHTSA closed its investigation. Perhaps, in light of this fatality, concluding that investigation was done prematurely. In the meantime, FCA has expressed its condolences to Hill's family, but still insists "The 2007 Liberty meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards, including those that test fuel-system integrity in rear impacts."

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