The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expanded and upgraded its 20-month-old probe into whether as many as 5.1 million Jeeps pose an inordinate fire risk in rear-impact crashes. It makes sense. It also was inevitable.
The NHTSA investigation, which began in October 2010, now involves several Jeep models from the 1993 through the 2007 model years that have the fuel tank behind the rear axle. The agency has 26 reports of fires on Jeeps struck from behind, including 46 injuries and at least 15 fatalities.
It's high time to resolve the matter to determine whether a recall is reasonable -- and if not to exonerate the Jeep brand.
Wisely, Chrysler says it is cooperating with NHTSA even though the automaker denies there is an inordinate fire risk and says a recall isn't needed because the vehicles in question met all applicable federal safety regulations at the time they were built.
It's in the best interests of Chrysler, its dealers and NHTSA to determine quickly what, if anything, needs to be done to make sure Jeep owners aren't at a disproportionate risk.