Class Action Ignites Over Jeep Wrangler 4xe: A Fuse of Safety Concerns

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Jeep Hybrid Owners Rally for Accountability Amidst Reports of Fires and Explosions

Have you ever had that nagging feeling as you left home, worrying you might have left something on that could start a fire? Imagine that concern, but with your vehicle – specifically, a Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid. According to a new class action lawsuit, these vehicles might just be sitting quietly in your driveway before they catch fire or even explode.

A spark of contention

At the center of this fiery issue is a class action lawsuit targeting the 2021-2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe hybrids. Several owners, including Gary Frisch, Tammy Otto, and Brian Kreb, have brought this action in Michigan federal court, alleging these vehicles’ propulsion systems might ignite and explode, even with the engine off.

They argue, "A plug-in electric hybrid that cannot be parked at its home or operated in electric mode is not fit for its ordinary purpose,” highlighting the risk these vehicles pose not just to their owners but to anyone nearby.

Gary Frisch's experience underscores the lawsuit's concerns. He leased a 2021 model with the reasonable expectation of safety and now finds himself unable to use the vehicle's electric functionality or charge it at home due to fears of fire.

His predicament is exacerbated by FCA's advice to avoid parking the vehicle near structures or other vehicles, which is hardly feasible in practice. Moreover, Frisch has had to rely on gasoline, negating the hybrid's benefits, and despite his requests, FCA has neither fixed the defect nor offered an alternative solution.

The lawsuit points to the high-voltage lithium-ion battery packs made by Samsung as the source of the fire and explosion risk, a notable issue given Samsung's history with EV battery problems. 

This isn't an isolated concern; Samsung has a history of issues with its high-voltage EV batteries and FCA has had notice since at least 2020. In August 2020, for instance, Ford recalled its Kuga PHEV due to fire risk and, in a familiar refrain, owners were told not to charge the battery. The battery manufacturer was Samsung.

The aftermath

The core of the lawsuit is informed by reports of eight fire incidents with the vehicles parked and turned off. FCA's recall of about 45,000 hybrids came with guidance that seemed to complicate rather than solve the problem.

"Instead, with its first notification to Class Vehicle owners, FCA ‘advised [owners] to refrain from recharging these vehicles and not to park them inside of buildings or structures, or near other vehicles until the vehicle has the final repair completed,’” the lawsuit states.

This left many in a difficult position, uncertain of how to safely manage their vehicles and forced to forgo the benefits of the plug-in hybrid's electric capabilities. Reduced to running on gasoline alone, the plug-in hybrids lose the very essence of their appeal—efficiency and eco-friendliness.

“Not being able to plug in and charge the Class Vehicles defeats the central purpose of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.”

A charged debate

This situation has sparked a charged debate about FCA's responsibility and the safety of its vehicles. Plaintiffs argue that FCA was aware of the risks but proceeded to market the vehicles regardless. 

They are now seeking damages and repairs, accusing FCA of violating consumer protection acts, breaching warranties, and unjustly enriching themselves at the expense of consumer safety.

The plaintiffs are represented by E. Powell Miller, Dennis A. Lienhardt, and Dana E. Fraser of The Miller Law Firm PC; Roger N. Heller, Phong-Chau G. Nguyen, and Nicholas W. Lee of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP; John R. Davis and Michael L. Slack of Slack Davis Sanger, LLP; and Robert K. Shelquist, Rebecca A. Peterson, Craig S. Davis, and Krista K. Freier of Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP.

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe fire defect class action lawsuit is Gary Frisch, et al. v. FCA US LLC., Case No. 2:24-cv-10546-SJM-KGA in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.

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