NHTSA Launches Probe into Jeep Grand Cherokee Fires

Automotive News reported on Tuesday that federal regulators have launched a probe to investigate a possible fuel tank issue with 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is attempting to determine if more than a dozen post-crash fires involving the vehicles are the result of faulty placement of the SUV’s fuel cell. Any problem has the potential to impact more than three million cars currently on the road.

Preliminary information released on Tuesday by the NHTSA suggested that at least 13 deaths in 10 separate crashes were “most likely associated with the alleged defect” in the Grand Cherokees. However, the NHTSA stopped short of blaming the fuel cell’s placement for the fires, stating that the accidents and fires did not necessarily “establish a defect trend” and that a review of early warning data did not find the subject vehicles to be over-represented for post-crash fires.”

The nonprofit Center for Auto Safety petitioned the NHTSA to investigate the fuel tanks in the Grand Cherokee, which they say are improperly positioned to absorb an impact and are known to tear off during crashes. Jeep’s parent company Chrysler Group said it is cooperating with the NHTSA investigation but remained confident that “that a study which considered all factors in all collisions — including rear collisions with fire — would show that the 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees perform as well as or better than other vehicles in their class.”

Toyota Recalls Prius Models with Braking Problems

The problems keep piling up for Toyota. As the company struggles to do damage control from the recall of more than six million cars due to problems with stuck gas pedals, it today announced that it is also recalling more than 400,000 hybrid vehicles – including its popular Prius – to fix problems with the brake mechanism.

Many drivers have complained about delays when pressing their brakes, especially in cold weather or bumpy conditions. Toyota will fix the problem by installing new antilock brake software into the car’s onboard computer. The recall will impact 2010 Prius owners in the United States, along with lines such as the Lexus HS250h sedan and the Sai, which is only sold in Japan.

The Prius recall might not be the last obstacle Toyota has to deal with. Automotive News is reporting that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is reviewing claims of power steering failures with 2009 and 2010 Corollas. According to the publication, the NHTSA has received 83 complaints since April 2008, with the majority of the incidents claiming that the car veers sharply to the left or right at speeds of more than 40 miles per hour.

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