Posted on March 27, 2012 at 6:21 AM
INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. -- A new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon burned suddenly and without warning in Indian Trail where Rob Pyrock and his passenger say they were lucky to get out, and hundreds of miles away there's a similar story.
On March 12 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, there was another similar Jeep fire with another lucky driver named Sean Heiney. He talked to NewsChannel 36 on Skype about the sudden loss of his brakes, steering and then the fire.
“I actually left the moving vehicle, which was completely engulfed in flames by the time I got out of it,” Heiney said.
Like Pyrock in Indian Trail, Heiney began to investigate and called Chrysler to report the problem but says he was told “we’ll call you.”
"To have someone call you back in a few days when you just left a burning stocked warrantied car, and so I was frustrated and started doing research and found out I wasn’t alone," Heiney said.
To get Chrysler’s attention, Heiney says he created a video of his Jeep fire and others. He set it to music and sent it to Chrysler, telling them they could watch it on YouTube.
“Monday morning, Chrysler legal called me and started throwing out offers,” Heiney said.
Heiney says Chrysler offered to buy his Jeep back and reimburse him for everything he spent. The cause of Heiney ’s sudden fire had been ruled “inconclusive,” and as part of the deal, he says, they wanted him to sign a non-disclosure--basically requiring him to say nothing.
“I’m not going to take that. I can’t sleep at night if I know that some other Jeep owner was in a car that caught fire and some dramatic damage happened to them or their family," Heiney said. "I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, so I am trying to make this as public as possible.”
In an email, Chrysler told NewsChannel 36, “It is quite normal for customers to be required to sign a release in these matters in order to keep the settlement terms confidential. This was particularly important in a case with an inconclusive event investigation.”
Chrysler also denies Heiney's version of how the offer for settlement came about saying, "Our timely investigation and reasonable offer of settlement was the result of a good Company responding to a customer issue and request. Chrysler Group takes all vehicle fires very seriously and investigates them in a thorough and timely manner. Actually, Mr. Heiney had been demanding that we resolve the matter in that tight timeframe. Any connection is a product of his own imagination."
No dice, no deal, no new car--for now. What Heiney says he wants is for Chrysler to admit there might be a serious problem that causes sudden fires.
As for Pyrock ’s fire in North Carolina, Chrysler says it was grass wedged underneath in the back near the gas tank from off-roading and poor maintenance, even though the video clearly shows the fire burning and re-igniting in the front. Chrysler says the operating manual says after going off roading, it is always a good idea to check for damage.
Chrysler told NewsChannel 36 that car fires are complex issues. We asked them if they have any specific plans to address this issue, and they said no. In a statement, Chrysler said, “We monitor the day-to-day safety performance of our products as a normal course of business, and we are in active discussions with regulators.”
NewsChannel 36 also contacted the National Highway of Transportation Service Administration with USDOT which investigates automotive defects and dangers.
A spokesperson there wrote, “We’re monitoring the issue closely and will take appropriate action as necessary.”
A Chrysler spokesperson says 131,000 Jeeps were sold in the U.S. last year. On safercar.gov NewsChannel 36 found nine complaints about sudden fires.