WASHINGTON — Up to 5.1 million sport utility vehicles made by Chrysler Group, the carmaker run by Fiat , will get closer scrutiny from US regulators looking into about two dozen reports of fires after rear-impact crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration upgraded a preliminary investigation of Jeep Grand Cherokees and added Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Liberty models with fuel tanks behind the rear axle to an engineering analysis, the agency said Thursday in a website posting. Fires related to rear-impact crashes in the Grand Cherokees may have caused at least 15 deaths and 46 injuries, the regulator said.
Such upgrades sometimes lead to recalls. Chrysler doesn’t know how many of the 5.1 million vehicles, some of which were made in the early 1990s, are still operating, said David Dillon, Chrysler senior manager for regulatory affairs. A recall of 5.1 million vehicles would be among the 10 largest in the United States.
The recalls of Toyota models in 2009 and 2010 over reports of unintended acceleration covered 10 million vehicles.
NHTSA opened its probe into the Chrysler vehicles in October 2010.