Auto manufacturer Chrysler, which reorganized under chapter 11 bankruptcy law after the 2008 economic downturn, is maker of the popular and well-known Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Grand Cherokee – 2.2 million of them – now finds itself in trouble after the discovery of an apparent design defect in the fuel tank.
As Lisa Stark and Ben Forer report for ABC News, the Grand Cherokee’s fuel tank has a problem that can lead to “rupture” in the event of a car wreck. Presumably, a rupture in the fuel tank means that drivers and passengers are at significant risk of serious injury or death because of fire.
This appears to be the classic scenario in which a company runs a cost-benefit analysis. For example, if Chrysler purposefully chose a cheaper alternative among several gas tank designs, despite evidence that it had a greater risk of rupture, this could open Chrysler up to liability.
Executive director Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said, “This is the most dangerous vehicle on the road today and we want it recalled,” as Stark and Forer report.
In fact, according to the Center for Auto Safety, 55 drivers and passengers have died in car crashes that involved the Grand Cherokee – and fire was a significant cause of death in these cases. Photos provided by ABC News show Jeep Grand Cherokees severely burned and sagging in the rear. It appears by these photos that a rear-end impact caused the fuel tank to catch fire.
The apparent fuel tank design defect affects all Grand Cherokees built from 1993 to 2004.
Tom Kline’s wife Susan was killed when her Jeep was rear-ended. Kline said, “Imagine someone you’ve been with, that you’ve loved dearly for 33 years being burned to death. It’s just not a good picture.”
Source: ABC News, “Safety Advocates Demand Government Recall Jeep Grand Cherokee,” by Lisa Stark and Ben Forer, 06/08/11