Safety Advocates Demand Government Recall Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Center for Auto Safety is demanding the government recall the vehicle.

ByABC News
June 8, 2011, 10:43 AM

June 8, 2011 -- The Center for Auto Safety is demanding the government recall 2.2 million Jeep Grand Cherokees, model years 1993 through 2004, because of what they say is a defective fuel tank design that can cause the gas tank to rupture in a crash.

"For the Center for Auto Safety, this is the most dangerous vehicle on the road today and we want it recalled," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the advocacy organization.

The Center says that at least 55 people have died in crashes where fire was "the most harmful factor."

This week the center turned over to the government new crash test results that it says show gas tests failings in rear-end impacts. Ditlow said the problem is that the fuel tank is located behind the rear axle.

"You can have the tank itself rupture, you can have the filler hoses pull off as they did in some of our crash tests, and it's just a terrible design," Ditlow told ABC News.

Chrysler disputes the Center for Auto Safety's test results, telling ABC News, the test was "three times as severe" as the government standard and that the vehicle meets or exceeds federal standards.

The company added, "rear impacts resulting in a fire are extremely rare ...[and] occur no more often in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles than in peer vehicles."

New Jersey mom Susan Klein died in a Cherokee when it burst into flames after she was rear-ended. Her husband, Tom Kline, spoke to ABC News affiliate WTVD in Raleigh, N.C.

"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."

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is investigating the vehicle's safety, declined to comment on the crash test.

Chrysler changed the Cherokee's design in 2005, moving the fuel tank in front of the rear axle. It says the change was made to expand cargo space and had nothing to do with safety.