WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- The Center for Auto Safety in Washington said it has recommended federal regulators investigate Jeep Grand Cherokees made from 1993 to 2004.
The non-profit organization's executive director Clarence Ditlow said three tests indicate the vehicle is unsafe if hit from the rear, due to vulnerable gas tanks that have a history of leaking after a crash and bursting into flame.
The center, which was founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader in 1970, has alerted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that "172 fatal fire crashes" occurred in Grand Cherokees from 1992 to 2008, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
In those crashes, 254 people died, the center said.
The center said it had sponsored tests that included a Ford Taurus striking the Jeep at about 50 mph. In another test, the Taurus struck the Jeep at about 40 mph.
In a separate test, a Taurus struck a 1995 Ford Explorer from the rear at 70 mph. After that crash, there was no fuel leak, the center said.
Research group Experian Automotive said of about 3 million Grand Cherokees made in the years in question, 2.2 million are still registered.
Chrysler spokesman Michael Palese denied in an e-mail there was a problem with the gas tanks, explaining the tank was moved for model year 2005 vehicles due to a switch of where the spare tire would be stored, not for a safety issue.
As the tire was moved under the back of the car, the gas tank was moved to make room, he said.