The history of Jeep, currently a subdivision of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, began in the late 1930s when the US military decided to develop a light, nimble, outdoor scouting vehicle for use in the field. In 1941, the government put a contract up for bid to produce a working prototype within 49 days, to which only two automakers responded. The American Bantam Car Company produced a prototype, which was then co-produced by Ford and the Willys-Overland for World War II.
After the war, the Jeeps were modified for civilian use, while they remained in production for the military. The Jeep became a symbol of American liberty and patriotism, and is still marketed as a vehicle which “forges an extraordinary, uncommon bond with” the driver. The vehicles were fairly popular, but the brand changed hands many times as car companies’ financial situations changed. In 1969, the American Motor Company acquired the Jeep brand, and, in 1984, they produced the XJ Cherokee model which was the first ever unibody SUV.
The Jeep brand has maintained a fairly small but loyal section of the consumer market, and they have continued to grow domestically and internationally since the brand was purchased by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 1987. Jeep currently offers a range of crossovers and SUVs with varying towing capacities that top out at 7,400 pounds.
Jeep Recalls and Defects
This section by no means represents a comprehensive list of manufacturing and operating malfunctions, and it is advisable to check for complete information on any recalls that may apply to your vehicle in order to quickly and safely address them. The following information, however, compiles some of the past and current common issues that Jeep owners may experience.
Exploding Gas Tanks
One of Jeep’s most notorious safety concerns involves the gas tank on its 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee and its 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty models. The particular placement of the plastic gas tank, below the rear bumper, leaves it open to the impact of cars which might rear end a Jeep. When this occurs, the fuel tank often ruptures then catches on fire, engulfing the car and occupants in flames. When the government completed its investigation into the issue in 2013, regulators linked 56 deaths to the problem.
This initiated a recall of 1.5 million vehicles, 55% of the recommended number of vehicles. Many Jeep owners fear that the recall is incomplete and that the fix that Fiat Chrysler is offering to its Jeep customers, a new trailer hitch to give added protection to the gas tank, has not been scientifically tested to prove its effectiveness. In fact, many of the vehicles involved in fiery crashes before the recall had trailer hitches already installed. The Center for Auto Safety cites 478 deaths resulting from the unwisely placed gas tank.
In 2015, the family of four year old Remington Walton, who died in a Jeep fire, received a $40 million dollar payout from Fiat Chrysler for their lawsuit. In court documents from the trial, Fiat Chrysler admitted that it had been sued over 30 times for the same issue and had always settled out of court. Fiat Chrysler tried to settle with the Walton family, but they refused, saying that they wanted to spread awareness about the issue.
Parking Brake Defect
Another high profile case, which occurred in June of 2016, highlights the fatal impact that even small design and manufacturing errors can have. 27 year old Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was killed when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward, pinning him against a security fence. This model had been recalled in April for a defect in the electronic gear shift system which caused drivers to believe their car was in park, allowing it to roll away unexpectedly. Around 250,000 vehicles were included in the recall which was made after the National Highway Traffic Safety reported 41 injuries, 212 crashes, and 308 property damage claims stemming from the shifting defect.
Soon after the accident, Yelchin’s parents filed a wrongful death claim against Fiat Chrysler. In addition, Jeep owners filed a class action lawsuit in late June to seek compensation for the diminished value in their vehicles due to bad press. They also claim that Jeep did not do enough to address the dangerous problem even though they knew about it for an extended period.
In December of 2016, a class action lawsuit was filed in California against Fiat Chrysler which asserts that the company knowingly used emissions-cheating devices in their 2014-2016 Dodge Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokees. This comes after Volkswagen in Germany was caught using such “defeat devices” in 11 million cars worldwide.
These cars were marketed by Fiat Chrysler as “EcoDiesel” vehicles and referred to in advertisements as “clean diesel” vehicles. The lawsuit alleges that the technology in the vehicles is flawed because when the “EcoDiesel” mechanism is turned on, the fuel economy is much lower than advertised and towing capacity and power are diminished, so customers must often deactivate the “EcoDiesel” function. Additionally, it claims that Fiat Chrysler purposefully used this faulty device to evade US emissions regulations. Choosing an “EcoDiesel” engine added an average $4770 to the price of the vehicle, exploiting consumers’ desire to mediate their driving’s effect on the environment. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has some of the worst nitrous oxide emissions of any vehicle currently in production.
Representation for Colorado Personal Injury Victims
Many American car brands use marketing to foster a sense of connection to a brand or vehicle, and often they deliver on their promises. However, automakers are multi-billion dollar entities and can sometimes cut corners in terms of safety and efficiency to protect their own interests. If you have been victim to one of these dangerous issues, or to any false promise that car companies may make to win your business, you need someone on your side who will put your interests first. To take legal action, start by contacting the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal to set up your free case consultation. Call him today at (303) 853-2223 or contact him online.