The preliminary investigation, begun Monday by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, is the first step in determining whether a recall of the popular Chrysler-made SUV is necessary. The investigation covers Grand Cherokees in model years 1993 to 2004.
The advocacy group Center for Auto Safety in October asked NHTSA to review whether the gas tank's position below the rear bumper and behind the rear axle could cause fuel to spill if the SUV were struck from behind. The group also said that the neck of the fuel tank could tear off in crashes.
While the agency has not reached any conclusions, an initial review shows that the Grand Cherokee did not have significantly more fires after crashes than other vehicles, NHTSA said.
Chrysler said it is cooperating with the government investigation and that the Grand Cherokee has an excellent safety record. It moved the tank's position after the 2004 model.
NHTSA has found 44 Grand Cherokee crashes and 55 deaths since 1992 where fire was listed as the most harmful factor. Of those figures, 10 crashes and 13 deaths were most likely associated with rear-end crashes, the federal safety agency reported.
If you have concerns about your 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, you can contact NHTSA at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/