Jeep owner claims Chrysler response to fire is 'BS'

Jeep owner claims Chrysler response to fire is 'BS'


by BILL MCGINTY / NBC Charlotte Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @billwcnc

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 27 at 7:47 AM

CHARLOTTE, NC -- NBC Charlotte's stories about fires in some Jeep Wranglers have one common theme--they’re sudden, they’re unexpected and mysterious to the owner.

Paul Bova of Vermont says he started his 2008 Jeep Wrangler in his driveway and went back into the house for a moment.

When he came out, he said fire was raging out both front windows and the front windshield exploded out and the roof melted. The fire department had a tough time putting it out because gas was leaking out the bottom.

Our earlier reports on Jeep fires outlined similar problems in the 2010 Wranglers, like the one in Indian Trail that caught fire while owner Rob Pyrock was driving. It too appeared to be leaking gas under the front.

Chrysler said debris underneath the Jeep caused the fire.  The fire marshall in Union County said, "No, it wasn’t debris.  It was mechanical failure and it started in the engine.”

Bova said Chrysler finally settled with him and he had to sign documents saying he wouldn’t talk about the deal or the fire anymore.

After our reporting on Jeep fires last May, Chrysler recalled more than 67,000 2010 Wranglers to install skid bars to prevent debris and fire, but it only recalled the 2010s.

Safety experts like Sean Kane, with Safety Research and Strategies, said a recall should include the 2007s through 2012s as some sudden and unexpected fires have occurred in those models, too.

Kane said he'd like to see some transparency and stronger enforcement from NHTSA.

In China, only three similar fires in 2010 Jeep Wranglers occurred, but the Chinese government insisted that any recall include 2008s and 2009s as well as the 2010, and Chrysler agreed. 

In the United States, there were 14 documented fires in the 2010 Wranglers, but the recall here is only the 2010, and NBC Charlotte is wondering why.

“In general, we noticed a trend by NHTSA to consider the auto industry its partner instead of the consumers they’re there to protect, and so often times, we see them just accepting the manufacturer’s recommendations and just moving on,” Kane said.

NBC Charlotte emailed Chrysler asking, why recall three model years in China but only one here in the United States?

In a statement, Chrysler only said that fire incidents occur with all manufacturer models:

"Fires involving all manufacturer vehicles often occur for many reasons that have nothing to do with the vehicles themselves.  Poor maintenance, improper vehicle use or improper installation of aftermarket equipment often are causes of vehicle fires.  As such, it’s misleading to reach conclusions regarding the cause of a vehicle fire until they incident has been investigated. 
The model year Jeep Wranglers you have mentioned all meet or exceed all applicable federal safety standards and have excellent safety records.”

NBC Charlotte also put the question to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which wrote back saying they did look at the 2008s and2009s and that they had closed its safety defect investigation into certain 2010 Jeep Wrangler vehicles.

The agency urges owners of these vehicles to have them promptly serviced by a Chrysler dealer to address the potential risk of fire due to debris collection in the skid plate area.

NHTSA will continue to monitor the issue and will take appropriate action as warranted.

"We would refer you to Chrysler for that information. However, as noted in the post recall overview, while NHTSA examined 2008 and 2009 Wranglers in addition to 2010 vehicles as part of its investigation, the agency's analysis of currently available data did not identify a safety defect trend in the earlier model years," NHTSA said.

As for Bova, who owned the 2008 Wrangler that burned, he says Chrysler denied his claim and responsibility.

As for the cause of Bova’s Jeep fire, Chrysler told NBC Charlotte it was undetermined.

Paul told NBC Charlotte, “It’s BS!”