Chrysler recalled Jeeps with exploding gas tanks more than 18 months ago, but more than 1 million of these vehicles have not been fixed as the death toll continues to rise. According to a tally maintained by the Center for Auto Safety, at least six people have died in five crashes since the June 2013 recall.
Chicago Tribune reports that Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the advocacy group, urged executives to take greater action in reaching owners of the affected Jeep Liberty and Grand Cherokee models, which can catch fire when rear-ended. “It’s a callous disregard for human life by Chrysler,” he stated.
FCA US, the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV division that owns the Jeep brands, says that it is slowed because they are finding drivers of vehicles between seven and 20 years old; a number of them have been sold to second or third owners.
Chicago Tribune notes that the Jeep recall has been somewhat overshadowed by the massive GM recall over defective ignition switches. Regulators and politicians have greatly criticized the automaker for failing to act on the defect for over a decade.
The Jeep gas tank defect has been linked to 38 crashes and 56 deaths, in addition to the six recent fatalities. The crashes involves 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty and 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee models.
David Friedman, deputy director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wrote Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne in November calling the rate of repairs “woeful”. He said it was surprising that only 3 percent of the 1.56 million recalled vehicles were repaired.
According to Chicago Tribune, one of the recent deaths from a gas tank explosion included a 23-year-old pregnant woman in Detroit. On Nov. 11, she was driving her 2003 Jeep Liberty when another vehicle struck hers from behind; the car ignited and she died at the scene. Two days beforehand, a 58-year-old Virginia man’s 2007 Jeep also burst into flames and killed him. He was rear-ended by a truck semi-truck with frozen turkeys while stalled on a bridge in Henrico County, Virginia.
Initially, FCA denied the issue and refused NHTSA’s request to recall the 2.7 million Jeeps. At the time, NHTSA said FCA made the vehicles more dangerous by locating the gasoline tank between the axle and bumper instead of in front of the axle.