In November of 2014, 23-year-old Kayla White was killed when her 2003 Jeep Liberty exploded into flames. While trying to merge onto a freeway in Detroit, her car was rear-ended and flipped on its side, causing the explosion. Firefighters, though arriving relatively quickly to the scene, were not able to save her life.
White is one of more than 70 people who have been killed in similar accidents involving older Jeep models with plastic fuel tanks mounted behind the rear axle. In this position, the fuel tank is much more vulnerable when struck from behind in a car accident, making the vehicle susceptible to fuel leaks and explosions. In 2013, Chrysler Fiat submitted to a recall of over 1.56 million of their vehicles after a detailed investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As of January 14, 2015, only 12% of these vehicles have been repaired, which is a much slower pace than expected. More than 840 Jeep customers have complained that although Chrysler offered free repairs on their vehicles, dealerships do not readily have the necessary parts on hand, making the repairs difficult and inconvenient. White was among the customers who attempted a repair, but her vehicle was not fixed.
More than 40 lawsuits have been filed against Chrysler, with most of the cases being settled outside of court, but since the repair rate has been so slow, this number is expected to rise.