Jeep investigated after multiple fires

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Federal safety inspectors have initiated an investigation into the 2010 Jeep Wrangler because of fires reported to originate in the engine compartment.

Chrysler Group stresses the action is not a recall and should not be linked to a recent engine compartment fire in Houston involving a 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

"Six o'clock in the evening, I go out and I see smoke coming from the parking garage. I'm like, 'Oh, I feel bad for that guy.' I turn the corner -- there is my Jeep, just a blaze of glory," Jeep owner Mike Embry said.

Embry had purchased the Jeep from River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge just hours earlier.

"If it is a defect, then it is a Chrysler (corporate) issue. They build the cars and we sell them. If it's not a Jeep issue, then it's got to be insurance-related. That's why you buy insurance," said Alan Helfman, owner of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

Helfman has offered to provide Embry with a loaner vehicle as the matter is hashed out.

A Houston Fire Department report cited "failure of equipment" with "electrical arcing" of components not identified as the cause of Embry's Jeep fire. 

Local 2 investigates was there as a third-party investigator, hired by the Chrysler Group, and another third-party investigator, hired by Geico, inspected the vehicle. Neither company has disclosed the results of their separate investigations. 

Embry's insurance company has offered him a settlement. Embry said he does not plan to buy another Jeep.

Local 2 Investigates discovered a series of similar fire reports in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database. The reports are not limited to 2010 model year vehicles. 

There were 15 similar reports of Jeep Wrangler fires in model years 2007 to 2012, excluding model year 2011. The 2010 model year vehicles yielded the highest number of similar reports with nine.

Chrysler Group sent Local 2 Investigates the following response when it inquired about the federal investigation and Embry's vehicle.

"Chrysler Group is cooperating fully with NHTSA regarding an investigation into 2010 model year Jeep Wrangler vehicles. It is important to note that this is a preliminary investigation, not a recall, and has nothing to do with the 2012 Jeep Wrangler.

"Vehicle fires are very complex and can occur for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with the vehicle itself.  Poor maintenance, improper vehicle use or installation of aftermarket equipment often are causes of vehicle fires.

"Chrysler Group is aware of a small number of incidents involving engine compartment fires in 2010 Jeep Wrangler vehicles and is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to these incidents. Indeed, the 2010 Jeep Wrangler meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards and has an excellent safety record."

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