2015 Jeep Cherokees under investigation by the NHTSA for Engine Compartment Fires

In some cases, it takes hundreds of incidents before a product defect is investigated. Other times, it only takes one, as is the case with an investigation currently underway on the 2015 Jeep Cherokee. A single vehicle fire caught the attention of officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who are now looking into the matter further.

Margareta Knoos of La Jolla, California purchased a brand new Jeep Cherokee from the Perry Dealership located in National City on January 2, 2015. Just two days later on January 4, 2015, she parked her vehicle after taking it for a short drive. At that time, Knoos noticed a smell like smoke, but thought little of it until a few minutes later.

After going inside, her brother then looked out the window and saw smoke coming from underneath the hood. By the time the family got outside, the vehicle was consumed by flames, which by some accounts were estimated to be around 20 feet high. Those flames quickly spread to her neighbor’s palm tree, and began heading toward her home.

Knoos’ brother and father attempted to put out the fire while waiting for help to arrive. They were unsuccessful at saving the Jeep Cherokee, as all that remained of the vehicle after the fire was its shell. A trail of burning oil or fuel also trailed the vehicle some 50 meters down the street where Knoos had previously driven.

At the time of the incident, there was only 50 miles on the odometer. Video of the incident was captured and submitted to authorities along with a written report.

A similar incident was noted by another owner of a 2015 Jeep Cherokee on January 5, 2015. That owner was driving a brand new vehicle at approximately 60 miles per hour when smoke began rolling out from underneath the hood. There were only 45 miles on that vehicle at the time. No one was injured during this incident, and the vehicle in question was not taken in for repairs.

At this time, the NHTSA is unsure as to whether or not the two incidents are related. The agency released a press release claiming that an investigation into the matter was initiated on January 13, 2015. According to this press release, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received data submitted as a part of the Early Warning Reporting program that gives details about an alleged defect.

Eric Mayne, a spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler, the manufacturer of Jeep vehicles, stated that the company was aware of the incident and was also cooperating fully with the NHTSA investigation. In all, the company estimates that more than 50,000 2015 Jeep Cherokees have been sold to date, but the January incidents are the first of their nature to be reported.